P.K. Subban has a lot he could be worrying about right now. Still a restricted free agent, his contract negotiations with the Montreal Canadiens have stretched into September with seemingly no resolution in sight. The two sides are reportedly at odds over contract length, with Subban seeking a long-term deal similar to those signed recently by young stars like Jeff Skinner, Taylor Hall, and Jordan Eberle and the Canadiens aiming for a two-year deal similar to the second contracts signed by Carey Price and Max Pacioretty.
Adding to that stress is the potential of the new CBA changing the rules on restricted free agency, which might make it even more imperative that he get a long-term deal done now before those new rules kick in. Of course, that might be some time given the state of the ongoing CBA negotiations between the NHL and NHLPA. Subban might not need to sit out training camp like Drew Doughty did last season while awaiting a contract extension, as training camp might end up cancelled.
Instead of worrying about all of that, however, Subban is focusing his attention on a much more worthwhile endeavour: lending his time and support to a new initiative to equip and pay registration fees for over 1000 young hockey players who might otherwise face difficult financial barriers to playing the game they love.
“I haven’t been worried about it [negotiations] all summer,” said Subban when I spoke to him yesteday. “I’ve been focusing on this program launching and I’m just happy that it’s here now. We can talk about the lockout all we want, but this program really is about the kids that are being locked out of opportunities to participate in hockey because of their financial situation.”
Hyundai has teamed up with KidSport, a non-profit organization devoted to helping children with financial difficulties preventing them from playing sports, to create a program is called Hyundai Hockey Helpers. The program has already helped 1000 hockey players under the age of 18 with their fees and equipment thanks to contributions from Hyundai dealerships and are now looking for donations from the public to provide grants to more kids.
For Subban, this program hits home as his parents needed to make significant sacrifices to allow him and his two brothers to play high-level hockey.
“As a kid growing up, if there were any programs like this, I didn’t know about them,” said Subban, “so to see kids have an opportunity to be a part of this program is amazing. I know how tough it was for my parents.”
At least, he’s aware now. When he was younger, the reality of the expense of hockey never really hit home. “My parents never wanted me to be worrying about them making sacrifices just to pay for our hockey and stuff like that,” he explained, “Now that I’m a little bit older, I’m starting to realize it because I’ve gotta pay bills and do all these things and now it’s ‘Wow, hockey sure isn’t cheap.’”
That sacrifice has paid off for the Subban parents, with P.K. already starring for the Canadiens, Malcolm getting drafted in the first round by the Bruins, and Jordan already being talked up as potentially better than both of them. To Subban, however, the benefits of hockey are far more than just the possibility of playing professionally: “[It's] the opportunity to learn the life skills that I’ve learned playing hockey. Life skills like perseverance, work ethic, dedication, healthy living, all those things.”
Hyundai Hockey Helpers is a family affair for the Subbans, as P.K.’s father, Karl, and brother, Malcolm, are also acting as ambassadors for the program. But helping kids has always been a big part of life for the Subban family.
“My family is full of educators and that’s all I’ve ever known is seeing people help kids,” said Subban. “My dad’s a principal, my sister’s a teacher, my other sister’s a teacher, her husband’s a teacher, so there are a lot of educators in my family and I’ve only seen them really give back and hardly receive. For me, even in the short period of time I’ve played in the NHL, I feel it’s my duty and responsibility to give back. Give back to a game that’s allowed me to provide for my family.”
For those hockey fans who also want to give back to hockey and donate to the Hyundai Hockey Helpers program, you can visit their website at hyundaihockey.ca. With Hyundai covering all administration costs, 100% of donations are going directly to helping kids play hockey.
“I can’t sit here and really sell anybody on the program, it sells itself,” said Subban. “There are thousands of kids that are going to get hockey equipment and registration paid for. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?”