P.K. Subban is calling it a career. At 33 years old, Subban retires with over $78 million banked since being drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in 2007, with a Norris Trophy on his mantle, with lasting memories of coming oh-so-close to winning the Stanley Cup with the Nashville Predators in 2017, with 115 goals and 467 points accumulated over 834 regular-season games, with 18 goals and 62 points in 96 playoff games and, according to him, without any regrets.
Never mind that he tumbled, rolling steeply, and then steadily downhill from prominence through three seasons with the New Jersey Devils, over which he was a shell of the player who had such a meteoric rise.
Forget about the menial offers that came in towards the tail end of this summer—there weren’t more than a handful, and none of them were worth much more than the league minimum as he came out of his eight-year, $72-million contract a diminished product. The legacy he leaves is of a once-electrifying player who contributed much more than goals and assists to the game.
As a Black superstar in a predominantly white sport, Subban was unparalleled. He inspired in almost everything he did, both on and off the ice, and paved the way for people who’d have otherwise never thought of picking up a hockey stick or lacing up skates with aspirations of reaching the sport’s pinnacle.
At his peak, Subban scored magnificent, dramatic and inspiring goals with flair and panache; he made beautiful passes, threw bone-rattling hits and played the game, as he put in his retirement announcement on social media Tuesday morning, “as if someone paid to watch me who had never seen me play before,” and that made him a true role model both within and outside of his community.
Subban writing, “I never looked at myself or ever felt like I was ‘just a hockey player,’” captured the true essence of his legacy. He was uber-successful in being more than “just a hockey player.”
As a Canadien, in September of 2015, he made an unprecedented gesture—committing to raising $10 million for the Montreal Children’s Hospital, donating millions of his own money and involving so many different people who’d have otherwise never been involved in the process. He rallied the community in this venture and did so without hesitation.
“When I was presented the opportunity to do something like this with the $10-million donation to the hospital in Montreal, I didn’t even think twice about it,” he told Trevor Noah, host of the Daily Show, in 2018. “They came down the [Highway] 401 to my house in Nobleton, Ont., and they presented it to me, and I signed the papers right there.”
Less than a year later, after scoring 63 goals and posting 278 points in 434 games with the Canadiens, Subban was traded to Nashville straight up for Shea Weber in one of the biggest blockbusters in NHL history. Shortly after landing there, he began working on founding Blueline Buddies—bringing together members of the Metro Nashville Police Department with mentors or representatives from local organizations and underprivileged youth, hosting all parties at Predators games throughout his three years with the team.
“I think it’s important for athletes to set a tone in a way that we’re looking to build bridges,” Subban said as he launched the initiative in October of 2017.
He followed through, bridging members of law enforcement with minorities at a time when police brutality and violence towards minorities was peaking in America, and he kept the program going in New Jersey as a member of the Devils from 2019 through April of 2022.
Subban’s benevolence will resonate for years to come. His name, etched on the atrium wing of the Montreal Children’s Hospital, will always be remembered in the city in which he began his NHL career.
But his playing days are over, with a lucrative broadcasting career certainly on tap.
“I look forward to the road ahead, and the exciting opportunities to come,” the Toronto native wrote towards the bottom of his retirement announcement, which was made just moments after fellow defencemen Keith Yandle and Zdeno Chara announced their retirements following long—and highly successful—careers.
“I’m excited to share what those are with you when the time comes,” Subban wrote before ending with, “With love, appreciation, and all the happiness I could ever hope for, P.K.”
It’s hard to imagine he’d have not taken more goals, assists, hits and strides in the NHL at his age, just 13 years into a career that could’ve extended well beyond this point if he felt it was worth it.
But Subban will continue to be involved in hockey and appears to be saying à bientôt rather than au revoir.