P.K. Subban is known for a long list of achievements On the ice, he's a defenseman for the Nashville Predators. He's a Norris Trophy winner, an NHL All-Star and a gold medal winner. When he's not turning breakouts into goals, he's a philanthropist, a burgeoning style icon, and sometimes, a singer and a dancer.
What he wants to be known as, though, is a creator, someone who comes up with new, fun, outside-the-box exposure for the game that's already provided him with so much.
"The NHL has given me such an opportunity—and not just me now, also members of my family an opportunity to take care of ourselves and our families," he says. "My way of giving back is continuing to try to grow the game and we do that. We protect the game, but it's also our job to grow it as players while we're here and during this time."
That's a big part of the reason Subban chose to partner with adidas, joining a hockey roster that includes Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid, Brent Burns, Tyler Seguin and Patrice Bergeron. He also joins NBA stars like James Harden and Damian Lillard, along with soccer virtuoso Lionel Messi. And make no mistake, Subban sees the common thread.
"They're all creators," he says. "Those guys are all guys that have the ability to dominate in their sport, but do it in a unique way. I think they all have a mind of their own, and that's what adidas is. I think just like every other athlete that's with this family right now, you just want the opportunity to be able to create."
As far as coming up with ways to grow hockey, Subban believes it's an off-the-ice endeavor, mentioning the lifestyle part of the game that he feels is a blindspot for the league.
"This has nothing to do with the game on the ice," he says. "This has everything to do with continuing to market the game and bring in new fans, and to do that, I think you gotta be able to cross different platforms."
Subban is no stranger to putting the spotlight on the non-hockey side of the game. He endeared himself to Nashville by jumping on stage at the infamous Tootsie's, singing Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues." He's garnered plenty of attention by donating $10 million to a Montreal children's hospital and starting Blueline Buddies, a program that brings Nashville law enforcement together with local underprivileged youths.
But it's not about the recognition, it's about helping people.
"I don't think you necessarily have to be building toward anything," he says. "I think you can just see that you're doing the right thing while you plan it. I've been given such a great opportunity with a great platform, I mean, why not use it in a positive way to help other people? I think it can be as simple as that."
Simplicity doesn't mean boring, however. Subban's ability to create stems from a diverse reach, which he believes can help him achieve his goal of seeing hockey flourish with a wide audience.
"I think that when you look at hip-hop culture and lifestyle branding and all those things, a lot of people would probably say that I resonate with that community," Subban says, "and when you mix that in with hockey, it is interesting. At the same [time], I'm a hybrid because I understand both ends of the spectrum, and I think that's kind of cool. And for a brand like adidas, for me to be able to partner with them, I think it's a win for both."
What adidas gets out of the equation is a player well known for doing exactly what's on his mind. Whether that's insinuating his 2017 Stanley Cup Final adversary Crosby has bad breath or wearing a red velvet tuxedo jacket to the NHL awards, Subban describes his style as "constantly evolving." He's not afraid to put his own spin on the classics or go in the direction you least expect. But make no mistake, he owns it all.
“If I make a pledge to a hospital, then yeah, I follow through with the pledge,” he says. “I don't quit on it. For me, I want to own everything that I commit to doing and that includes my philanthropic work, my relationship, my partnerships—I want to make sure those are all taken care and managed the right way.”
Doing it “the right way” for Subban is a traditional-meets-flair style, the same approach he plans to bring to adidas and growing the game. Who knows, there could even be a special edition P.K. Subban training line in the cards. But don’t expect him to hang around like a fly on the wall, waiting for the perfect shot.
“I’m not really looking at it as I'm waiting for any opportunities,” he says. “I just kind of take it one day at a time and let things come to me.”