P.K. Subban’s contract situation was on the minds of reporters and Canadiens fans Thursday, but that wasn’t what he wanted to talk about during a stop in Brossard.
Instead, he spoke about a cause that his family has rallied around — a program that helps kids play hockey by providing grants for equipment and registration fees.
“There’s no doubt that hockey is an expensive sport,” Subban said at the news conference. “And for kids like my brothers and I who have worked our way up through competitive leagues these costs just keep going up.”
Subban had a salary-arbitration hearing scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday in Toronto. On Wednesday, the Canadiens submitted an offer of $5.25 million for one season, while Subban and his agent, Don Meehan, asked for $8.5 million.
Subban was in Brossard Thursday morning with his brothers Malcolm and Jordan — who were also drafted into the National Hockey League — and their father Karl to promote the Hyundai Hockey Helpers program that helps families that can’t afford to play hockey. KidSport, a not-for-profit organization, identifies the children, calculates the grant amounts and distributes the money. Now in its third year, the program has helped nearly 5,000 kids across Canada.
As far as he can remember growing up in Toronto, Subban said he had way more friends who didn’t play hockey — they couldn’t afford to — than friends who could.
“Me being a part of this program, it’s much more than being a face and talking to media and promoting the program. It means something to me personally, you know, because I feel like I’m giving back to kids that were just like my friends growing up,” the 25-year-old Canadiens defenceman said.
“My parents made many, many sacrifices,” Subban added. “I’m sure they gave up the opportunity to go on family vacations and different things like that just to be able to provide. We had three kids playing Triple-A hockey and two girls going to university. It’s a tough thing to be able to find money to pay for all of that stuff. They’ve had a lot of help. But I’m aware of those sacrifices now. I probably wasn’t aware of them at a very young age, though.”
P.K. was selected by the Canadiens in the second round (43rd overall) of the 2007 draft. Malcolm, a goaltender, was the Boston Bruins’ first-round pick in 2012 (24th overall) and the Vancouver Canucks picked Jordan, a defenceman, in the fourth round of the 2013 draft (115th overall).
His sons used second-hand equipment, said Karl Subban, a retired school principal.
“We never went on holidays,” he said. “We always used to joke that the hockey tournaments were the holidays.”
Karl recalled how P.K.’s first set of equipment came from a teaching colleague who brought a bag of equipment to work when he talked about putting his son in hockey.
“And then a friend of mine went out and bought the rest of the equipment,” he said.
“So it’s that spirit of generosity. It’s that spirit in giving that really makes a difference and that’s what this program is about.”
Karl wasn’t sure how his family’s involvement in the program came about, but said he was “so happy” it happened.
“Because we’re not only helping so many children, as you saw today, but it’s also helping my boys to become better people.” he said.
“I’ve always told them it’s good to be a good hockey player. ... But you must also learn to be a better person. And so this (program) it’s a wonderful vehicle for teaching them how to be better as people.”
Asked if he worries that hockey is becoming inaccessible to a lot of Canadian kids because of the cost, the elder Subban said he does, but his bigger concern is the health of sedentary kids.
“We have so many more children today who are sitting in front of a screen and not out there being active,” he said. “We know it’s not good for their health. So that’s a big, big concern. And also the cost of hockey is driving families and children away from it. I see what (hockey) has done for my children both as people and now they’re making a living from it and I would like every child in this country to have the same opportunities.”
P.K.’s contract situation came up during the media scrum, but he didn’t wade into the topic.
There was intrigue when he left the press conference interview sessions for an extended period for a phone call. Upon his return several minutes later, Subban said he was talking to his mother, not his agent, because he left the cooking grill on at home.
He later told TSN Radio 690 that when he left at 5 a.m. Thursday morning he made organic bison burgers.
“I left the grill on,” he said. “So she was calling me to tell me that I almost burnt the house down.”
Subban was scheduled to return to Toronto Thursday afternoon and told The Gazette he planned to have dinner in the evening with Meehan.
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