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The Devils defenseman reflects on his early NHL locker room stall mates and experiences

by Amanda Stein amandacstein /

For P.K. Subban, his first real foray into an NHL locker room was met with mixed emotions.

He had been called up once before, a stint that lasted just two games before being sent back to the AHL. When it stuck, it stuck, but it wasn't all that easy. 

He had just played one of the biggest games of his career to date and didn't want to leave his Hamilton Bulldog teammates behind. 

"When I got called up, it was after that game we won," Subban said. "And I get pulled into [head coach] Guy Boucher's office and he tells me that -- this is right after the game we win -- tells me I'm getting called up.

"I remember the feeling," he continued. "I was like, I was upset because... You have to think about it. You're in Hamilton, I was there for the whole season and guys like Alex Henry, Mike Glumac, like these guys were all, they were so good to me."

Glumac and Henry were career AHLer's who had taken Subban under their wings.

"So, when I got called up, I was a little bit upset because I felt like I was leaving them behind," P.K. remembered. 

And then, opening the doors to the Canadiens locker room, he was met by an audience. 

"So, I walked into the room, the old Habs room," Subban said. "And I remember there was like 18 cameras there. There were so many. I wasn't nervous because I remember we had just played in the AHL playoffs and had a really good first round."

Montreal can be an intimidating place for an up-and-coming hockey player but surrounded by the right people can make the process a lot easier. 

And Subban had plenty of help, in different ways, from the veteran players who sat next to him in the Canadiens locker room, players like defenseman Hal Gill.

"I was one of those guys that, you know, if the game was at seven, I showed up like literally five minutes right before five. I didn't like to be at the rink long because at that point when I played the game, I didn't think much about the game. I went out and played off of instinct and had fun and, read the play and played with energy."

If you think about Subban now, at 30 years old and the amount of energy he has at any given moment, moving his legs at a speedy pace during the national anthems in games to keep himself at the ready, imagine what he must have been like as a young up-and-comer.

It ended up being Gill, as the veteran, who had to strike the balance, once stunning Subban by suggesting the team be more like him. 

"Guys used to be like, 'tell him to stop skating around and he's doing this, he's doing that.' And then one time we had lost like, four or five games or something like that. And our starts were terrible. Like the teams would get up on us two to three, nothing like in the first couple minutes.

"I remember 'Skillsy', said this," Subban remembered. "In front of the whole team, in the locker room he said, 'You know guys, we get on Subbie for always bouncing off the walls and stuff, but that's how he gets ready to play. We've got to get ready like that to play.'"

Subban perhaps was a little shocked at what Gill had said to the entire locker room. 

"I didn't know if he was, if that was going to help me or if that was going to have everybody in the room hate me!"

Subban is more serious than most when talking about his first stall mates. If they were anything to Subban, it was impactful. 

Like one highly revered defenseman:

"Do you know why I chose to wear '76'?" Subban asked me, turning the tables on our interview.

I didn't. 

"Take the 6 and flip it upside down," he said making the motion with his hands. "It's a nine. '79', Marky's number."

'Marky' is Russian defenseman Andrei Markov. He, for many years, was the backbone of the Canadiens defense and power play -- a player that Subban grew up watching. 

"He was a guy that I watched a lot," Subban said. "Such a good D-man. He's just so good. And everybody in the [Canadiens] organization just knew how good he was from players, ex-players, to new players."

Then one day, this player he had watched so intently was his stall mate. 

And it left an impact. 

"So, I'll tell you about Marky," he reminisced. "My first couple of years in the league, when I got there, probably the first year or two, Markie, well, he didn't really say much to me. He didn't talk much to me at all, actually. But Markie, whether he knew this or not, I was the biggest fan of his." 

But he was always quiet, until one day he spoke up and began a conversation that would set Subban on his path to a 2013 Norris Trophy win. 

"Well, I remember when he got back [from a knee injury] and he was healthy, fully healthy again, he brought me over to the white-board and he says, 'Okay, you see this D' and we were listed as the third D-pairing at the time. And he goes, "Right now we're the third D pairing, by the end of the season, we're going to be the first the pairing'," Subban recalled.

Every game, we work on getting better, is what Subban recalls Markov saying.

"I mean, I think it took shorter than that, I think before the end of the season we got there. We were on the first D-pairing, and I mean. I think everybody kind of knows what we accomplished together over a two, three, four-year period. And you know, I felt we really had a chance, you know, that year [Carey Price] doesn't get hurt, maybe we have a chance to, to really do it all."

That part might be a 'might have', but what is certain is the impact those first couple of locker room stall mates managed to have. 

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