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The NHL is a More Boring Place Without P.K. Subban

P.K. Subban retired from the NHL and his influence on the league's marketability during his prime should not be forgotten.
P.K. Subban

There was not a single second, at any stage of his extensive career, that P.K. Subban was not entirely, 100 percent himself. 

God, was it ever refreshing. 

Hockey as a sport discourages individualism. It's an industry that hammers out a person's unique qualities in order to fit them into the "pucks in deep" and "it is what it is" archetype that doesn't upset the established order. Subban broke through that mold right from the get-go, celebrating each goal with aplomb, hamming it up to a nightly sea of paying fans, and, in stark contrast to practically everything we'd seen before him, appearing to simply relish the fact that he was playing a game for a living. 

On Tuesday morning, Subban retired from the NHL after 13 seasons at the age of 33. His decision to ride off into the sunset comes a tad sooner than you'll see from a typical veteran and is yet seemingly right on schedule for Subban himself. Subban has always been destined for more than slapping around some rubber on a frozen rink. And he knew it. 

In his retirement announcement, Subban described himself not as a hockey player, but as a person who happened to play hockey. His interests have always reached far beyond the boundaries of the sport -- boundaries that, as we've seen, can be quite constricting to those within them. 

Even during his playing days, Subban laid the groundwork for his life beyond hockey, hosting his own podcast, purchasing an ownership stake in Angel City FC of the National Women's Soccer League, and founding a marketing company that helped net him a spot on Sports Illustrated's 50 best-dressed athletes list in 2018 and a spokesperson gig for RW-CO suits. 

Subban was the cover athlete for EA Sports' NHL 19 video game. He rubbed shoulders with some of the top athletes and biggest stars on the planet, dipped his toes into the broadcasting world on a lark, and, through sheer charisma and exposure, did more to help promote the game than any of his peers.

Simply put, P.K. Subban was a star. He still is, really. And the NHL, on the ice, is less entertaining without him. 

It wasn't all sunshine and roses, however. Injuries robbed Subban of his trademark gusto over his final few seasons -- something which likely factored into his decision to walk away from the game with his body still somewhat intact. The limited, aching version of Subban that last graced the ice in 2021-22 is not who he should be remembered as. 

In his prime, Subban was a force of nature. Arriving in the NHL at the peak of YouTube culture, his highlight packs became appointment viewing, starting immediately when he stepped onto the ice at the end of the 2010 season and proceeded to pace the Montreal Canadiens' blueline offensively as a 20-year-old in the playoffs. 

That run set the tone for the decade to follow. And it was a blast. 

Subban was the ultimate gamer. The bigger the moment, the better he'd play. With a booming shot and irrepressible affinity for end-to-end rushes, Subban's offensive creativity became as prolific as his penchant for earth-shattering hits. At a time when NHL front offices favored grit over skill, Subban perfectly blended the two, serving as the influence for countless ball hockey wars between neighbors on driveways across the world. 

In the end, Subban walks away with a mantle full of hardware -- a Norris Trophy, three First-Team All-Star selections, an All-Rookie team spot, and the 2021-22 King Clancy Award. Along with his win, Subban finished as a Norris finalist on two additional occasions, as well, earning a distinction as a second and third-team All-Star in the same year in 2018, for good measure. 

Who knows what else could have followed if health didn't play a factor? 

It's unclear what Subban's next venture will be now that his playing days are behind him. He won't be lacking in options, though, having already established himself as a gifted on-camera analyst and multi-platform media personality. Even if Subban never laces up skates again, his presence in the sport will do nothing but good for its marketability to a broader audience. 

Subban accomplished more in a 13-year career than most players do in 20. And that might end up as nothing but a mere footnote on his legacy when all's said and done. 


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