MONTREAL - When Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban announced in September that he and his foundation were making a $10 million commitment over seven years to the Montreal Children's Hospital, he took a moment out of his speech to address one special guest in the audience.
Elise Beliveau, the widow of the late Canadiens legend Jean Beliveau, was sitting next to Subban's father Karl listening to his speech in the atrium of the Montreal Children's Hospital, one that is now called the P.K. Subban Atrium following his donation.
Subban looked down toward Beliveau and addressed her directly, in her own native tongue of French.
Translated, Subban said that day: "I am proud to follow in the footsteps of my idol, Jean Beliveau, by giving back to the community through my involvement and my support. Mrs. Beliveau, I hope to make your husband proud."
The Canadiens announced Thursday that Subban is the 2015-16 recipient of the Jean Beliveau Trophy, awarded annually to a member of the team to recognize his charitable activities and involvement in the community.
Subban received the trophy from Elise Beliveau prior to the Canadiens' game against the Buffalo Sabres. Beliveau was accompanied on to the ice by two kids, and Subban first shook each child's hand before giving Beliveau a kiss on each cheek, as is customary in Quebec. After the photos were taken, Beliveau and Subban exchanged a few words and gave each other a kiss on each cheek again before Beliveau left the ice.
The criteria for the award used by the selection committee, made up of members of the Board of Directors of the Montreal Canadiens Children's Foundation, first looks at "commitment, enthusiasm, implication and time invested in collective and personal initiatives," according to the release issued by the Canadiens.
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As a secondary criteria, the selection committee looks at the candidate's leadership and financial contributions to the causes they support.
Subban's $10 million commitment to the Montreal Children's Hospital made him a prime candidate for the award this season, but it was his actions that cemented it.
"He's been quite present at the hospital," Montreal Children's Hospital Foundation president Marie-Josee Gariepy said in December. "We gave him a parking pass so he can easily park and just come in and go see patients and leave whenever he's ready."
When Subban was confronted about receiving a parking pass from the hospital a few weeks later, he smiled bashfully and said, "They told you about that?"
"I just pop in," Subban continued. "I have a doctor's pass so I don't have to go through all the stuff, I just go right in. I park in the garage, see the patients, drop off stuff."
The focus of Subban's work with the hospital centers around P.K.'s Helping Hand, a fund that is meant to help the families of sick children cope with the financial realities of having a child in the hospital.
Subban also sits on the Montreal Children's Hospital Foundation board of directors and has spearheaded a number of fundraising initiatives since the announcement in September. According to the Canadiens, Subban's activities and personal financial contributions have led to more than $820,000 being raised for the hospital foundation to date.
"He's going to be involved in not only how his own donation will be spent, but how the foundation will allocate funds to different priorities at the hospital," Gariepy said. "So he's going to play a much broader role than just allocating his own funds."
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Subban's involvement has helped the Montreal Children's Hospital to increase its visibility enormously thanks to his considerable reach on social media platforms and his ability to draw people to the cause with his personality.
"The only word that comes to mind is transformational. That gift has been transformational for all kinds of reasons," Gariepy said. "The money of course, because we're talking about a lot of money. But it's also P.K. himself; his brand, his personality, what he's bringing to the kids as an amazing role model. Every time he shows up, I'm telling you, people are so excited to see him and he's happy. There's nothing about P.K. that is fake. This guy is not fake at all. This guy is truly authentic."