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MONTREAL'S MIGHTY MOUTH
Michael Farber
December 20, 2010
Rookie defenseman P.K. Subban has talent to burn, but so far he's made his mark more as a trash-talker. After a recent benching, can he learn to channel his passion into better play on the ice?
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December 20, 2010

Montreal's Mighty Mouth

Rookie defenseman P.K. Subban has talent to burn, but so far he's made his mark more as a trash-talker. After a recent benching, can he learn to channel his passion into better play on the ice?

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If Subban is not shy in the spotlight, he can thank the Flyers' Richards for shining it directly in his eyes. After a disputatious match on Nov. 16 in Montreal, during which Subban intervened in a beef between Richards and Canadiens winger Andrei Kostitsyn, Richards told Montreal sports radio station Team 990 that Subban "hasn't earned respect. It's just frustrating to see a young guy like that come in here and so much as think that he's better than a lot of people... . Hopefully someone on their team addresses it, because, uh, I'm not saying I'm going to do it, but something might happen to him if he continues to be that cocky."

This scarcely veiled threat from a player who is hardly qualified to lecture on hockey etiquette—Richards's vicious blindside hit last season concussed Panthers winger David Booth—didn't faze Subban as much as force him to reflect. "P.K. and I discussed it," says Karl Subban, now a middle-school principal in Toronto's inner-city Jane-Finch corridor. "When an older player calls you out, you have to respect that. P.K. not only represents himself and his family, but the great Montreal Canadiens organization. He has to be cognizant of that. His veteran teammates don't want a distraction on the team."

P.K. might have become more contemplative, but he is not noticeably less rambunctious. Ten days after the Richards contretemps, he had his first NHL fight, against Thrashers defenseman Zach Bogosian, who goaded him into fisticuffs by knocking his helmet off. (Subban landed one punch and hung on.) The following night, in the dying seconds of a Canadiens win over Buffalo, the usually contained Myers, Subban's teammate on Team Canada's gold medal defense in the 2009 world junior championships, chipped the puck through Subban's legs in order to take a run at him. And against Toronto last Saturday, Subban jawed with Maple Leafs center John Mitchell and captain Dion Phaneuf.

"I played with Alex Ovechkin his rookie year, when he scored against Philly in preseason and skated by their bench and winked," says 34-year-old center Jeff Halpern, who is in his first season with Montreal. "Everybody on our bench was like, Uh-oh, we're going to get our asses kicked. The question was, How do you take away somebody's enthusiasm? P.K.'s cut from the same cloth. I don't think he goes out of his way to showboat, but that energy... . A lot of top-end skill guys come down on him one-on-one, and you can actually hear him challenging [them]. I think in the future, more guys are going to come into the league with that kind of energy."

In other words P.K. Subban could mark the beginning of the NHL's generation yap.

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