VANCOUVER, BC - If there was a moment when P.K. Subban arrived in the collective mindset of his native Canada and its hockey mad population, it was 10 years ago at the World Junior Championship.
Flush with a roster that included future NHLers John Tavares, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Ellis, Subban helped Team Canada win its fifth straight gold medal at that event. That gold medal victory came with a victory over Sweden, a team that included Erik Karlsson and Victor Hedman.
In that star-studded tournament - Hedman and Tavares were in an unofficial contest to see who would go No. 1 overall later that spring - it was Subban who stood out above everybody else. Then the property of the Montreal Canadiens, Subban even hugged Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk during the trophy presentation on the ice in Ottawa.
Video: DRAFT | Subban Trade Analysis
The Ottawa crowd loved it. Teenage hockey players don't typically show such that type of emotion, nor is hugging a rival NHL owner a typical reaction.
But P.K. Subban has never really been about convention. His Instagram message not long after Saturday's trade was another such example. More than 10 years later, Subban still marches to his own drummer
"He's a magnet for attention," said Nashville Predators GM David Poile. "But the work he does for charity is second to none. He was just fabulous for us."
Devils GM Ray Shero showed two telling emotions when he spoke with the media a few hours after the trade happened: Shero looked happy, and relieved.
Video: FEATURE | Subban is a Devil
"I know this is the right deal…because if it (didn't) happen I was going to be really disappointed," said Shero, before adding, "He has personality, I call it enthusiasm, and I like that."
Whatever some traditionalists think about Subban's persona, there is no denying he has produced on the ice. As Shero pointed out in the same media scrum, the 30-year-old is still relatively young and performing at an elite, or near elite level, logging big minutes.
"The whole idea of P.K.'s enthusiasm for the game and for life is a real positive for us and a real positive for the NHL," said Shero.
Subban's career achievements are elite. He's won a Norris Trophy in 2013. He was part of Team Canada's Olympic gold medal effort in Sochi a year later. He won two World Junior titles immediately after the Montreal Canadiens drafted him in the second round (43rd overall) in 2007. He's posted 50 points four times, and 38 points in the work stoppage year that he won the Norris Trophy. His 62 points in 96 playoff games is about the same pace as the 408 points in 645 career games with the Canadiens and Predators.
Video: RAW | Ray Shero on the Subban Trade
Shero acknowledged the conflicting emotions that Subban can create. Back when he held the same position with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Shero was annoyed that Subban "accidently on purpose" may have caused an injury to the Pens Jordan Staal. Time has softened the memory of that incident and Saturday's trade changed Shero's interpretation of it.
"It was an accident." Shero deadpanned.
Putting hockey aside, there is an appeal to Subban that makes him one of the most marketable players in the NHL. His swashbuckling style of play is part of that appeal but his personality strikes a chord with kids and fans in diverse communities that don't have deep hockey roots.
On Saturday, Shero cited his own experience, when Subban charmed Shero's kids shortly after he turned pro around 2010.
Video: ANALYSIS | More on PK Subban
Poile spoke about have Subban's link to the community in Nashville transcended the rink.
"Our fans loved him," said Poile.
A feeling that Devils fans will soon share.