MONTREAL – The T’s are crossed and the I’s are dotted. P.K. Subban is on his way back to Montreal.
After spending the first week-and-a-half of the season watching his teammates play on TV, Subban couldn’t wait another day to get back to battling alongside them on the ice. While it may have taken longer to put pen to paper than he had hoped for, the 23-year-old is just happy to be coming back to the only NHL city he’s ever called home.
“In hockey, sometimes there’s a business side to things and it’s a process. You never know how long the process will go, but at this point I’m happy we’ve reached an agreement that leaves both sides extremely happy,” shared Subban via conference call from his home in Toronto, hours after the restricted free agent signed a two-year deal with the Habs.
“A lot of people know the type of player and person I am,” he continued. “The biggest motivation [for me] is our team. I’m so excited to get back on the ice with our team and be part of it and win hockey games. Playing in Montreal is the pinnacle; it’s the best place to play. I’m just anxious to get back on the ice again.”
New Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin had made no secret of his intention on signing the budding young blue-liner, mentioning it as one of his top priorities from his first day on the job.
“Everything you do with any player, you always have to look down the road. There was never a doubt in my mind the day I took over that I wanted P.K. to be a part of this team moving forward,” explained Bergevin. “Some negotiations are faster, some are slower. Today it’s over and we’re really happy and proud to have P.K. in our club moving forward.”
With the team riding a three-game win streak heading into Tuesday’s game against the Jets and a new system to learn when he returns, Subban knows he might have to wait a little longer to make his way back into the lineup. While it’s been 297 days since he last pulled on a Habs jersey, the shifty defenseman isn’t worried about having to spend too much time shaking off the rust when he finally gets his shot.
“I’m always ready to play,” he mentioned with an almost-audible grin. “I’m ready to go whenever Marc and Michel Therrien give me the green light. I’ve been skating with the OHL team here, the Mississauga Steelheads, for the past three-and-a-half-weeks and I’ve been training consistently every day through the lockout.
“I’ve been on the ice for roughly three-and-a-half hours a day so I think I’m in the best shape that I possibly can be,” confirmed Subban, who will join the team in Ottawa on Wednesday morning. “Obviously, nothing matches being in a game, but mentally and physically I know I’m ready to go and I’m ready to help them wherever they need me to help them.”
Having missed the Canadiens’ truncated training camp, the home opener, the first road trip of the year and some of his new teammates’ first games and goals, the top item on Subban’s Montreal To-Do list is getting in some quality bonding time with his fellow Habs.
“I’ve played with most of the guys in the dressing room for about two-and-a-half years now and I’ve developed a good relationship and some chemistry with those guys,” described Subban, who also spent some time with newcomers Alex Galchenyuk, Colby Armstrong and Brandon Prust this summer. “I’m looking forward to getting into the room and going on the road and playing with them and practicing with them and getting to know them better. I’m extremely anxious to do that because our team is starting to form and we’re looking great right now.”
While he’s managed to stay in contact with some of his teammates from afar, Subban realizes there’s a chance he’ll have his work cut out for him when it comes to winning back some other jersey-clad members of the extended Canadiens family when he returns. Luckily, he also knows the best way to any fan’s heart is through the wins column.
“I think about the fans all the time; I see them in my dreams. I admire the fans and the support and the relationship we have,” stressed the exuberant blue-liner. “Obviously right now my focus needs to be on the team and that’s all I can control. With this process, I understand everybody will have their opinion, but I’m just looking forward to helping my team win. Everyone likes to see the Montreal Canadiens win.”
In fact, watching his team rack up three wins in four games is the only thing that made missing the first four games of the season bearable.
“I’d say ‘difficult’ is an understatement. It was extremely tough to watch as a player,” admitted Subban. “The toughest was watching the home opener and watching all the great players who have come through the Montreal organization and helped build this franchise. They’ve put in place that mentality that the Montreal Canadiens are a family and a team. That’s the most important thing about the Montreal Canadiens.
“I grew up a fan and my father is a huge Montreal fan and growing up watching the Montreal Canadiens, everybody knows it’s not just about one player; it’s about a team," he concluded. "It’s about building a team and building a championship team. I want to be part of that. I’m so happy to be back with my team. This where my heart is, in Montreal.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
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