Subban leaves the game at age 33. His body is not broken, and, no, he never won a Stanley Cup. But for a few exceptional years he was among the very best defenders in the game, a Norris Trophy winner, an Olympic gold medallist, a two-time World Junior Champion, a veteran of 834 regular-season games with three NHL teams.
Born in Toronto, Subban came from a family of athletes. He has two brothers who also play, Jordan and Malcolm, and all three played junior with the Belleville Bulls. PK, the oldest, was drafted by his childhood team, the Montreal Canadiens, 43rd overall in 2007. He returned to the Bulls for two years and then apprenticed with the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs in 2009/10, making his NHL debut with the Habs on 12 February 2010.
During his junior years, Subban represented Canada at the 2008 and 2009 World Juniors, winning gold both times, first in Czechia, and then on home ice, in Ottawa. The 2009 team in particular was special. They had a perfect 6-0 record and a goal difference of 47-12. The semi-finals was famous for Jordan Eberle’s tying goal in the dying seconds against Russia, and teammates included John Tavares and Jamie Benn.
As he matured, his game evolved. His strengths got better and his faults fewer. In 2012/13, he won the Norris Trophy, but through his seven seasons with the team the Habs had little playoff success. Midway through the ‘13/’14 season, Subban was named to Canada’s 2014 Olympic team. Although he played only one game, Canada won gold and Subban became only the second Black hockey player to win Olympic gold in men’s ice hockey (after Jarome Iginla).
In the summer of 2016, Subban was traded to Nashville for Shea Weber, a deal that ignited fierce debate on both sides of the deal. Subban got the early praise because the next year the Predators went to the Stanley Cup finals, only to lose to Pittsburgh.
But the Preds were headed in the wrong direction and went only two rounds the following year and one round in Subban’s third season with the team. In the summer of 2019, he was traded again, this time to New Jersey, where he played his final three seasons. The under-achieving Devils, however, never qualified for the playoffs.
Subban gave it his all during his years in the U.S., but he seemed most at home in the chandail of the Habs’ colours. In 2015, he pledged to donate $10 million through his charity to the Montreal Children’s Hospital, a venture he continued after being traded and for which he was lauded from coast to coast. The hospital received the gift by noting it was "the biggest philanthropic commitment by a sports figure in Canadian history.”
"I never looked at myself or ever felt I was “just a hockey player”,” Subban wrote today on Twitter in his announcement. “I always looked at myself as a person who happened to play hockey. Having that perspective allowed me to enjoy every shift like it was my last, celebrate every goal with emotion, and play every game as if someone paid to watch me play who had never seen me play before.”
NOTES: In addition to Subban and Zdeno Chara, Keith Yandle also announced his retirement today. The 36-year-old set an NHL Iron Man record by playing in 989 consecutive games. In all, he played in 1,109 games in 16 seasons and also represented the United States at the 2010 World Championship, his lone international appearance for the U.S.