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Let me entertain you

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

NASHVILLE – P.K. Subban isn’t just a Norris Trophy winning defenseman. He’s one of the best personalities in the game today, too.

On Saturday night, the Canadiens’ No. 76 got everybody talking – and tweeting – early on in the NHL All-Star Skills Competition at Bridgestone Arena by coming out of the Eastern Conference locker room dressed up as veteran Jaromir Jagr for his second shot attempt in the Breakaway Challenge event.

It was a spur of the moment idea for Subban, who contributed to the Eastern Conference’s 29-12 victory over the Western Conference in front of 17,006 fans in Music City.

“I just cooked it up once I got to the rink, so I’ve got to give a huge thanks to the training staff that helped me dig up the props and get them ready in time. Everything was last-minute. That’s the way I like to do it,” said Subban, who claimed top spot in the breakaway competition by securing 31 percent of the fan vote on Twitter, besting San Jose’s Brent Burns (26 percent) and Nashville’s James Neal (20 percent). “I don’t really like to plan anything, I just kind of react off instinct and just have fun. That just came to mind about 25 minutes before we hit the ice. I was able to cook it up.”

A long-time fan of Jagr, Subban felt like it was a perfect way to pay tribute to a 13-time All-Star and two-time Stanley Cup champion who continues to defy the odds. At age 43, Jagr is the Panthers’ second-leading scorer with 15 goals and 33 points in 46 games. He’s also a big reason why Florida currently sits atop the Atlantic Division.

“He had no idea. I wasn’t going to tell him. I wanted it to be a surprise,” explained Subban, who last took part in NHL All-Star activities in 2011 in Raleigh, NC when he was named as a rookie replacement. “It’s a tribute to the great player that he is, the career that he’s had so far in the NHL, and the player that he’s going to go down as when he finishes playing – that’s as one of the best players to ever play in the NHL. He was one of my favourite players growing up. It’s a sign of respect. It was a huge honour – for that five minutes, I was Jaromir Jagr. It was pretty cool.”

Burns, meanwhile, put on a highlight-reel showing of his own. His son and teammate Joe Pavelski’s son participated in his first breakaway attempt, before the towering rearguard donned a Chewbacca mask for a Star Wars themed second try that caught everybody’s attention from the start.

“I’ve got to give him credit, too. That was really cool. It was tough [to choose] between the both of us,” admitted Subban, who leads the Canadiens with 37 points during the 2015-16 campaign. “I wish they could have split it two ways and we both could have been winners.”

Later on in the evening, Subban’s 102.3 mph blast in the hardest shot competition wasn’t enough to best reigning champion – and Predators captain – Shea Weber, who fired a 108.1 mph rocket into the back of the net to the delight of the home crowd.

“I probably came closer than I thought I’d get to him,” admitted Subban, who had the fourth hardest shot of the night. “It’s flattering, though. Shea Weber’s got a shot that’s out of this world, so just to be able to be close to him is an accomplishment for me. I’m not going to hold my head down tonight.”

And, with good reason. The NHL All-Star Skills Competition is all about putting on a show for hockey fans across the world, and Subban did just that by keeping things light and throwing in a little bit of humour along the way.

“I was happy that [Jaromir] liked it and that he embraced it,” said Subban, who will be plying his trade alongside Jagr on Sunday afternoon in the 61st NHL All-Star Game. “I don’t know where this ranks in the highlights of his career, but I hope it’s up there.”

Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.

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