MONTREAL – P.K. Subban got a coveted call from Steve Yzerman this summer. He’ll spend the next few months making sure he’s on the receiving end of another.
The 2013 offseason has been anything but relaxing for Subban. After winning the first Norris Trophy of his career in June, the 24-year-old spent the rest of the summer prepping for an encore performance with trainer Clance Laylor in Toronto. In addition to two-a-day sessions in the gym and on the ice getting ready to defend his Norris title, Subban also took his first step toward representing his country in Sochi.
One of 47 players invited to Team Canada’s Olympic Orientation Camp from August 25 to 28, Subban is hoping the next time he sees the systems that were laid out for him during the four-day camp will be in Russia this February.
“This is my first time doing this so I’ve never been in this situation before,” explained Subban, who won back-to-back gold medals at the World Junior Hockey Championships in 2008 and 2009. “I’m not exactly sure how the process goes [from here], but now it’s more the evaluation process on their end to pick the team. Now guys just go back to their teams and have a good start to the season.
“It’s definitely something that’s on your mind,” he admitted on the prospect of being one of the defensemen chosen to play for Team Canada in Sochi. “Everybody wants the opportunity to play for their country. I think if you asked every player on [the Canadiens roster], they’d like to play for their country at the Olympics.”
Having most recently donned the Maple Leaf at the 2013 World Championships in Sweden, Subban has already gotten a window into what Team Canada’s scouting staff will be looking for during the first half of the NHL season.
“I think it’s mostly just that players have to be able to compete. Teams always want a player who can play in all situations and all zones. That’s the difference in our game now. Not everybody can do that,” described Subban, who led all NHL blue-liners in 2012-13 with 26 power play points. “I think the biggest thing players are going to have to realize is this is about the country and it’s about coming together quickly and trying to win something that’s not very easy to win.”
The Canadian hopefuls didn’t get a chance to practice together during their time in Calgary, but that didn’t stop Mike Babcock and his coaching staff from getting a head start on teaching the systems the players will be expected to execute on Olympic ice.
“A lot of it was strategy and system work and figuring out what our team identity is going to be and what our systems are going to look like once we start,” explained Subban, who participated in football-like dry land walk-throughs with his potential teammates to get used to the nuances of Olympic-sized ice. “Whoever gets selected to the team, when they get to Russia, there’s not going to be much time to go over systems and practice time will be limited. They were trying to give us a brief overview so the next time you see it, you’re familiar with it.”
In addition to chalk talk and strategy sessions, bringing the 47 potential Olympians together for a four-day summer camp was also about turning fierce regular season opponents into a cohesive team.
“There was a lot of team bonding and dinners and social events. I felt I got to know some of the guys I didn’t know really well before that. It was a lot of fun,” mentioned Subban. “It’s also for [the Team Canada staff] to get to know the players a little better and understand them. The emphasis was on the systems, but I don’t think that was the main thing they wanted to take away from this. I think they just wanted to create some chemistry between the players.”
One potential Team Canada teammate Subban should have no trouble bonding with in Russia is the goaltender who’s sat across from him in the Canadiens dressing room since he broke into the league in 2010. Vying with Roberto Luongo, Braden Holtby, Mike Smith and Corey Crawford for one of the three netminding openings available, Price find himself spending the morning after his wedding nestled next to Subban on a flight to Calgary.
“Pricey [Carey Price] and I have a pretty good relationship and we enjoy working together and being together,” he confirmed of the three-time NHL All-Star. “I enjoy being around him and I was extremely happy to go to his wedding. That’s a personal thing; it’s not hockey or business. You only invite certain people and to be able to share that moment with him and his new wife, Angela, it was pretty cool.
“He and I actually roomed together for the four days and I think what he learned was that we can actually room together,” joked Subban. “It would be extra cool to not only play at the Olympics with him but to win a gold medal and be there on that blue line standing next to him.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.
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