P.K. Subban: There's a time and a place when it needs to be all about hockey

It's safe to assume P.K. Subban is enjoying playing in Nashville. AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

Nashville Predators defenseman P.K. Subban has won an Olympic gold medal and a Norris Trophy and is the highest-paid blueliner in the NHL. But he also is a multimillion-dollar brand. His P.K. Subban Foundation has helped thousands of families with medical bills. His marketing company, P.K.S.S., has landed him business partnerships with Bridgestone, Gatorade, Air Canada and RW&CO. -- which carries a dress-for-success clothing line, Generation Suiting, that features Subban and fellow NHLer Nolan Patrick. In a wide-ranging interview, Pernell-Karl Subban, 28, talks about his love of family, his controversial trade from Montreal to Nashville and his thoughts on professional athletes' platform for social justice.

ESPN.com: Let's start with your family. In his new book, "How We Did It," your dad [Karl Subban] talks about sending you out on the ice with donated equipment and not being completely sure you were wearing it the right way. What kind of influence did he have on you?

P.K. Subban: He had a big impact on my life and my career. Not just my dad, but my mom [Maria], as well. I had great parents growing up, along with my other two brothers [Malcolm and Jordan] and two sisters [Nastassia and Natasha]. I'm very privileged to have great parents, caring parents, parents that dedicate a lot of their time and energy to their children, and we're very thankful for that.

ESPN.com: I understand your dad and oldest sister [Nastassia] were among the all-time leading basketball scorers at Lakehead University [in Thunder Bay, Ontario] and York University [in Toronto]. Both of your brothers are playing professional hockey [Malcolm is a goalie with the Vegas Golden Knights, and Jordan is a defenseman with the Utica Comets.] So, who's the best athlete in the family?

Subban: I don't know. We're all very young in our careers. You'll have to ask us that in another 30 or 40 years. I'm very happy for Malcolm. It's very deserving. He played well in the time he had [with the Boston Bruins, before being put on waivers], he trained really, really hard this past summer and now he's getting healthy -- and I look forward to seeing him in the lineup.

ESPN.com: How about Jordan, a 2013 fourth-round pick of the Vancouver Canucks?

Subban: You know what? Jordan, in my opinion, when I look at all three of us, I never worry about his drive and his will to play in the NHL. He has such great skills and talent, and he's just learning and continuing to mature as a professional. I think he's going to have a long career in the NHL, because I think he wants it so bad, and he's got the skill and talent to get him there and keep him there. He's just cutting his teeth now and learning the professional game, and I'm sure he'll get his opportunity soon.

ESPN.com: So, your dad is from Jamaica and your mom is from the small Caribbean island of Montserrat. What do those roots mean to you?

Subban: I still have family in Jamaica, and I'm still very in touch with my roots there. Whether it's West Indian food or Jamaican food or participating in West Indian or Jamaican events, I do that all the time in the summertime. We're a very cultured family in that way, and it's very easy for us to embrace.

ESPN.com: Are you a fan of island music?

Subban: I like all types of music.

ESPN.com: Living in Nashville, are you becoming a country music fan?

Subban: I've always liked country music. I think music is about time and place, and it depends on your mood. That's the cool thing about music. Every type of music gives you a certain feeling. It depends on how you feel that day.

ESPN.com: So, I assume you've met Carrie Underwood?

Subban: Yeah, I've gotten to meet her a few times. She's very, very nice, very pleasant, very sweet -- exactly what everybody would think she is. She and [former teammate] Mike [Fisher] are a great couple and two great people to be around, that's for sure. There is such positive energy around them.

ESPN.com: Let's talk a little about your first full year in Nashville and what it has been like for you off the ice. What do you like most about Nashville?

Subban: If you've never been to Nashville, you have to go to the Broadway Strip. That Strip has so much energy on it, and it's so much fun, especially for tourists to bounce around and hear the live music. I would tell whoever has never been to Nashville to definitely take a swing at the Strip, but also try as many restaurants as you can, because Nashville's got really great food and you don't have to look far. There are some awesome steakhouses. I live just outside Nashville in Brentwood, and I love the restaurants there -- they are amazing.

ESPN.com: I've heard you say that you're a guy who plays hockey, but you're not just a hockey player. What do you mean by that?

Subban: There's a time and a place when it needs to be all about hockey. I don't think that's 24 hours a day, seven days a week. How you choose to spend that time when it's not all about hockey is completely up to you. Nobody is in their right to tell anybody how to spend their free time. If you like to spend it with your family or your kids, fantastic. If you want to spend it with your girlfriend, great. If you want to spend it doing charitable work, great. If you want to spend it through endorsements and marketing stuff, great. If you want to spend it sitting at home watching TV, that's the luxury of the job we have. When we have free time, we can do whatever we want with it. Hockey isn't 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but you are always conscious of the fact you are a professional and you have to manage your body and manage your energy. It doesn't mean you can't have other interests. I think everybody you see in sports nowadays, not just myself, but other athletes, in general, now are taking interest in things other than their main profession, which is fine. But the reality is your performance level can't drop, regardless of what you decide to do. You have to continue to perform at the level you've been paid and expected to perform at. That's the deal.

ESPN.com: How would you describe the P.K. Subban brand?

Subban: I see it as completely authentic; it's me. If somebody ever said, "P.K., I need to build my brand," the first thing I would say is, "I don't think you build a brand. I think a brand is who you are. It's what you're into." That's what you're sharing with people. What I do on social media or what I say in interviews or at different events is just kind of what I believe and what I stand for -- being opinionated and having a stance. I made it pretty clear early in my career that one of my interests is giving back and wanting to help other kids and families. That's always something consistent with me that you see, because that's just my passion. Obviously, I love playing hockey, but I also like to do things through TV or social media; that's my stuff. But I'm also a high-performance athlete. I've had the platform to be able to share other interests that I have in my life. A big reason I have that platform is because I played for the Montreal Canadiens and had some great years there. That raised a lot of the awareness about me as a player and gave me a platform when I did want to give back. My work got exposed maybe a lot more than some other people that do charitable things. But if someone asked me about my brand, I'd like to sit down and say, "Look at the past 10 years and you can tell me what you think I'm all about." You know what I mean?

ESPN.com: Speaking of platforms, what are your thoughts on pro athletes using their celebrity to bring attention to social justice?

Subban: You know what? When you live in a country, you have to understand the rights that you have, and everybody has that right. It doesn't matter whether you agree or disagree, people are exercising their rights, and you have to respect that. That's the reality of living in a free country. This is the first time in my career and in my life living in the United States, and it's been amazing. I love it. Growing up in Canada and always living in Canada, living in the Unites States for the first time in the South has been an awesome experience for me and my family.

ESPN.com: What is it like living in the South, maybe compared to your perceptions?

Subban: I think everybody has a perception of countries and certain parts of the States or Canada or the world. But perception is just that. For me, I moved from Montreal to Nashville, Tennessee, and everybody understands people are just different here. They're so nice and very, very, very, very humble people with their feet on the ground. Whether you're single or you're married with a family, it's an awesome place to live. I've really enjoyed it, and I know my family and friends have because I can't get them out of here. I can't get them out of my house.

ESPN.com: As a black player who grew up playing in a predominantly white sport, have you felt you've been treated fairly throughout your career?

Subban: Listen. I mean, define "fairly." There's a lot of things that I wish wouldn't have come my way or a lot of things I don't think are fair. But I'm sure if you asked 720 players in the National Hockey League, they'll all have a list of things they would like to change about their careers and certain things they didn't get. The reality is, we never know why things are happening around us. All we do is put our heads down and do the work, and you count your blessings when they come. I've worked really, really hard, but I've also received a lot and have had a lot of success in a short career so far. Every year that goes by is another year gone. I can't complain about much. I've got an Olympic gold medal, a Norris Trophy, and I'm the highest-paid defenseman in the league. So there are a lot of things that have come my way that I really can't complain about, and I'm just trying to make the best of the opportunities I get every day, and that's it.

ESPN.com: It seems like people are always saying the NHL needs more colorful players, and when one comes along, he's considered too brash or too self-absorbed and is not a team player. Have you had to deal with that?

Subban: A lot of things are said about me. And maybe if I didn't play in Montreal to start my career, a lot of those things would not have made news. But when you're in Montreal, everything gets kind of blown up and everything becomes news, which is fine. None of that stuff ever really bothered me. I'm not that self-absorbed where I think everybody on the planet is going to love me or love everything about me. They're all not going to love the way I play the game or think I'm the best-looking guy in the world. It's just not going to happen. You're going to have people disagree. They may not think how I play the game is the right way. Or they may not think everything I do is truly authentic and real, but that's just life. What are you going to do? All you do is continue to work on yourself every day as a player and as a person, and that's it. I try to get better every day and continue to do good things, not just for myself, but for the people around me, and just create good energy around me wherever I go, because that's the only way to live, in my opinion.

ESPN.com: Overall, do you feel like the fans in Montreal embraced you? If so, how did it feel to be traded?

Subban: When I got traded, I was on vacation. I know there were a lot of rumors once the season was over about possible changes coming and my name was coming up a lot, even though I had never spoken to management or my agent about them moving me. I just figured that usually where there's smoke, there's fire. I didn't really understand why, but it doesn't matter. That's just what happened. That's the direction the organization decided to go. All I can really say is that [Canadiens chief executive officer] Geoff Molson and the management there, we had great years in Montreal and we went on some amazing runs. We played some pretty amazing games at the Bell Centre, and I thought we had an opportunity with the core group of guys to really make a push for a Stanley Cup. It just seemed like we were always maybe a step or two behind in terms of having enough depth or we didn't have any luck or we had trouble with injuries, and it just never came through for us. It's unfortunate. I felt there was still some great hockey left to be played there. But now I'm just trying to give that great hockey to Nashville, a team that wants me and an organization that has embraced me fully and allows me to be myself within our team concept, which has always been my angle -- to be myself within the team concept. We found a way to have a lot of success doing that, which is great.

ESPN.com: So what was last season's playoff run like for you personally?

Subban: You know what? It was a lot of fun last year, but it was earned. It was not luck; it wasn't chance. A lot of people can say whatever they want, but our team was not a top team 20 games in or 30 games in or 40 games in. Everything kind of came together for us towards the end of the season, and we finally got healthy. Even this year, we've had trouble with injuries and we've had guys banged up and we haven't been able to have our full team on the ice. We made a lot of changes last year, and Shea [Weber] going out and me coming in was the biggest change. It takes time for a team to adapt to that, and it took us a while. But we figured it out and we grinded it out. We learned every step of the way, and we deserved to be in that position. We just didn't get the job done that time around, and we're looking forward to getting back there this year.

ESPN.com: Very few teams are able to get back to the Stanley Cup Final after losing the year before. What makes you feel the Predators can?

Subban: I think we have the team that can do it, because we have the depth. If you look at Pittsburgh, they have the depth. Sometimes it's not a matter of how many games you win in the regular season, it's just the matchups you get in the playoffs. Some teams prefer different matchups. Sometimes there's luck and there are always one or two upsets in the playoffs, and the next thing you know you're in a Final with a team that you didn't expect to be in the Final with, right? Anything can happen. You just want to get in, and once you get in, the real hockey starts; and I think last year that was the mentality in Pittsburgh, and it worked out for them.

ESPN.com: Predators general manager David Poile said he believes you're just hitting your prime. Do you agree? And what's left on that bucket list of yours?

Subban: I still think there's more to my game. Obviously, the [suspected back] injury last year kind of set me back. It's tough, because when you play a certain game and a certain style, that's what people expect, and last year, I wasn't able to play that way. This year, being healthier and having a second year under my belt with this team and their systems, you get used to it. You feel a little more comfortable, and I feel good. I do believe there are still levels to my game I can still tap into and I will. I just want to continue to grow and take it one day at a time. I'm not trying to look too far ahead. Life goes by fast as it is. I'm sure there are other things to accomplish, but right now, I'm just focused on this season, get better every day and getting a win tomorrow.