Karl Subban thought he was done.
The proud papa of three black professional hockey players thought he was finished writing his first book, “How We Did It, The Subban Family Plan For Success In Hockey, School And Life.”
Then The Trade happened.
Nashville Predators defenseman P.K. Subban.
The Montreal Canadiens swapped All-Star defenseman P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators straight-up for All-Star defenseman Shea Weber.
The move shocked the hockey world, helped guide the Predators to their first Stanley Cup Final appearance, and sent Karl Subban scrambling to his computer to write another chapter for his book.
“Yeah, I had to write it,” Karl told me. “It was unbelievable. It was an unbelievable run to the Stanley Cup Final. I’ve never been through that before. It took me a long time to believe that we were there.”
The elder Subban talks about his book, The Trade, the Predators’ Stanley Cup run, racism, and what it’s like raising three very talented hockey players in the first episode of the Color of Hockey podcast.
Our new podcast, like this blog, will tell the story of the history and growing impact of people of color in ice hockey at all levels and all aspects of the game – on the ice, off the ice, behind the bench, in the broadcast booth, and in the front office, wherever.
And what better lead-off guest than Karl, father of Pernell Karl (P.K.); Malcolm, a goaltender and Boston Bruins 2012 first round draft pick who was waived by the B’s this week and claimed by the expansion Vegas Golden Knights; and Jordan, a 2013 Vancouver Canucks fourth-round draft pick who’s a defenseman for the Utica Comets, the Canucks’ American Hockey League franchise in Upstate New York.
P.K. tallied 10 goals and 30 assists in 66 games in his first season in Nashville. He had 2 goals and 10 assists in 22 playoff games.
Malcolm compiled an 11-14-5 record in 32 games for the Providence Bruins and posted a 2.41 goals-against average and .917 save percentage. He was winless in the AHL’s Calder Cup Playoffs with a 2.12 goals-against average and a .937 save percentage.
Jordan notched 16 goals and 20 assists in 65 regular season games last season for Utica. He had 2 goals and an assist in four AHL playoff contests.
Providence Bruins goaltender Malcolm Subban looks to work his way to the NHL (Photo/Alan Sullivan).
True to its title, “How We Did It” gives insight to how Karl and Maria Subban guided their boys through various levels of hockey – from lacing on their first pair of skates skates to hearing their names called at National Hockey League drafts.
“The African proverb, I use it in the book, ‘It takes a village to raise a child,'” Karl told me. “It also takes a village to raise an NHLer…to grow their potential. Maria and I can’t stand there and say ‘Look at us, we did it all by ourselves.'”
At 5-foot-9, defenseman Jordan Subban is out to prove that he belongs with big brother P.K. in the NHL (Photo/Lindsay A. Mogul/Utica Comets).
But the book is also deals with immigration – Karl’s family moved to Canada from Jamaica and Maria’s from Montserrat – education, and the ugly realities of racism, an issue that P.K. first confronted when he was an 8 year old playing minor hockey in Toronto.
It’s a lesson that Karl, a semi-retired Toronto public school principal, was sadden that his son learned so early.
“He came out of the dressing room crying. He said a boy on the ice called him the N-word,” Karl writes in the book. “We said there was no need to cry because it was only a word. We probably said something about ‘sticks and stones.’ There weren’t too many kids playing who looked like P.K., but now someone had communicated it to him in a way he didn’t like.”
He’s endured racist taunts and attitudes as a pro, most notably during the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs when so-called Bruins unleashed a torrent of hateful emails and social media posts after he scored two goals, including the double-overtime winner.
Embed from Getty Images
When confronted with racist ugliness, Karl says P.K. follows a bit of advice that he gave him: Don’t let them win.
“I’ve told P.K. it’s vital to change the channel, because if you ruminate over it, you can’t free yourself from it,” the elder Subban writes. “It does take practice, though – and P.K. has had a lot of practice.”
Karl had to change the channel when the Canadiens traded P.K.. Montreal was Karl’s team ever since he was a boy growing up in Sudbury, Ontario, watching the Canadiens’ French broadcast on TV, and dreaming of being Habs goaltender Ken Dryden.
As an adult, he thought there was nothing like seeing a game in hockey-mad Montreal. Then came Nashville.
“I didn’t think there was anything better until I got to Nashville, and then I said ‘Wow!'” he told me. “It’s so different and a great experience. It’s the music there, the environment. After the game, the honky tonks, the bars, the food, I love country music. And then we went on that (Stanley Cup) run, and the city, which is alive anyway 24/7, it was taken to another level.”
But Karl still can’t quite get used to what’s becoming a tradition in Nashville: fans tossing catfish onto the Bridgestone Arena ice.
“I just want to eat those catfish,” he told me. “There’s a restaurant where I go, they have this catfish thing and I love it. Like, I’m saying ‘please don’t throw them on the ice. Can you just give them to that restaurant I go to and have them prepare it the way they prepare it there.”
Follow the Color of Hockey on Facebook and Twitter @ColorOfHockey. Download the Color of Hockey podcast on iTunes, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.