P.K. Subban, acquired by New Jersey in a trade from the Nashville Predators on June 22, doesn't typically live life quietly or privately, so the Devils went big and bold to introduce him to their fanbase Thursday.
Approximately 2,000 fans showed up at Prudential Center to meet Subban, to hear from him, cheer for him, chant his name, get his autograph, and learn more about who he is, what he's all about and what he can do for their team and community.
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It was the capper on a five-day whirlwind introduction to New Jersey for Subban and his girlfriend, Olympic gold-medal skier Lindsey Vonn.
"Thank you so much for the support," Subban said to the fans. "Honestly, it's just really overwhelming. There's only one way to reciprocate, and that's to hoist the Stanley Cup here, so buckle up, let's go."
The show put on by the Devils for Subban was unlike anything the organization has done to welcome a player. The only comparable celebration was the number retirement and statue unveiling they had for Hockey Hall of Fame goalie Martin Brodeur on Feb. 9, 2016.
"Let's face it, P.K., and we'd like to adopt Lindsey also, they're major stars," Devils co-managing partner Josh Harris said. "I think it's welcome here in New Jersey. It's welcome in our culture, and I think it elevates our organization."
The world's largest in-arena scoreboard was lowered so it sat behind the stage set up above where the blue line would be. The Devils plastered images of Subban all over it, including a quote he gave shortly after the trade: "I want to win a Stanley Cup and I want it in New Jersey."
The electronic ribbon boards circling the arena above the 100-level seats had a never-ending message reel reading, "Welcome to New Jersey P.K. Subban." There were flags and banners reading the same thing.
Subban and Vonn arrived Sunday with one of their three dogs, Lucy. They went to dinner with Harris, co-managing partner David Blitzer and their wives, met with coach John Hynes, and attended an exclusive welcoming party the Devils had for them in Hoboken on Wednesday.
"Just a lot of love," Subban said.
Fans started to stream into the arena bowl around 3:45 p.m. ET, 15 minutes before Subban, Hynes and Harris conducted a press conference in the Platinum Lounge below the 100- level seats.
Subban wore a custom-made jacket from Dust of Gods, a Toronto-based wearable art company. Subban's jacket featured a Devils logo on the back and his No. 76 on the front. It was a gift from the Devils.
Video: RAW | P.K. on Change
The West Powelton Drummers, the official drum line of the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers, who also are owned by Harris and Blitzer, put on a show preceding Subban's entrance into the main arena bowl through a gauntlet of kids who all got low and high fives from the defenseman.
Devils radio broadcaster Matt Loughlin was the master of ceremonies. Brodeur, now the Devils executive vice president of business development, sat in the front row between Hynes and president Hugh Weber.
The fans chanted "P.K., P.K., P.K." One held up a "Subbanator" sign, a nod to the defenseman's Instagram handle.
"I don't know what to say anymore," Subban said to Loughlin and the fans. "The only thing I could do is ask how would you feel if you had this many people come out to support you?"
Loughlin asked Subban to look up at the rafters. He asked him what he saw.
"Banners, man. Legit banners," Subban said, staring at the Devils' three Stanley Cup championship banners lined up in order, 1995, 2000 and 2003. "I played with some of the players on those teams, and they always referenced their time here. I hope one day I can reference my time here as being a Stanley Cup champion."
That's the goal, the end game. Thursday was about the start. It was an introduction of Subban the player and person. It was the Devils' chance to show the community who he is other than just No. 76 on the ice and what he is capable of when the stick is in the rack and the skates are hanging.
Subban spent part of his time here conducting an educational tour of Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, the largest hospital in Newark and part of the RWJBarnabas Health system, to learn what it is all about. He met with doctors, executives and patients.
Subban was heavily involved with children's hospitals and charities in Montreal and Nashville when he played in those cities, and he likely will be in Newark as well.
"My goal is to help as many people as I can," Subban said.
Ten kids from 10 community organizations, including the Boys & Girls Club of Newark and the Devils' Learn to Play program, were welcomed onstage. All met Subban, who gave them a replica of his Devils' white jersey that he autographed for each of them while onstage.
The Devils' fans also had a gift for Subban: a Ric Flair-style red robe with white feathers that had "The Subbanator" and "76" on the back.
"This is unreal," Subban said after putting on the robe and letting out a "Woo!" like Flair, the former professional wrestler. "I'm so jacked up right now, it's unbelievable."
The fans started chanting his name again.
"All it does is put the onus on me to justify all this amazing treatment," Subban said.
Photos courtesy: Jeff Auger/New Jersey Devils