What P.K. Subban and Zdeno Chara Meant to the City of Montreal

Montrealers React to Subban and Chara’s Retirement From the NHL

Graphic Marilou Brickert & Nadine Abdellatif

Two polarizing NHL players announced their retirements from professional hockey this past week: P.K. Subban, loved by Montrealers for his flashy on-ice play and bubbly off-ice personality, and Zdeno Chara, who couldn’t touch the puck at the Bell Centre without receiving a resounding “BOOOO” from attendees.

Subban, who called it a career at the young age of 33, has forever left his mark on the city of Montreal. Whether it was taking time to meet with fans, young and old alike, donating $10 million to the Montreal Children’s Hospital in 2015, or performing the ice bucket challenge to raise money and awareness for Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Subban always sought to give back to his community. 

His generosity, with both his time and money, has not gone unnoticed. Long-time Canadiens fan, Brianna Losinger-Ross said she experienced firsthand Subban’s kindness and larger-than-life presence.

“My little brother was getting surgery at the Children’s hospital in 2012 or 2013,” said Losinger-Ross. “My brother’s surgery had been postponed and we were [very disappointed].” 

However, when Losinger-Ross and her family arrived at the hospital that day, they were greeted by a room full of chairs, prepped for some sort of celebration. They knew right away that something special was going on. 

“It turned out P.K. was going to open up the atrium, and there was a huge party [for the children],” continued Losinger-Ross.

Losinger-Ross, who felt strongly about the Montreal Canadiens and their star player at the time, was incredibly grateful for Subban’s willingness to take time out of his busy schedule to spend the day with the children at the Montreal Children’s Hospital.

“Even though he is a super busy man, he took the time to meet my little brother beforehand, and hang out with him before surgery, which, obviously, my brother was stressing out about,” said Losinger-Ross. “As he was leaving, and before my brother was out of surgery, we were walking to the elevators and that’s when my family and I met P.K. Even though he saw a lot of kids that day, he still remembered my brother.”

“He meant a lot to my family, but now he means even more,” continued Losinger-Ross.

Her feelings towards Zdeno Chara, however, were closer to distaste than love. Nonetheless, as a fan of hockey, Losinger-Ross understood that the six-foot-nine defenseman was good for the game and helped fuel the long-standing rivalry between the Canadiens and the Boston Bruins.

“I have been a Habs fan my entire life, and honestly, he was really fun to hate,” said Losinger-Ross. “After the Pacioretty hit, I am sure everyone in this city didn’t like him too.”

Die-hard hockey fan Matthew Skelhoren shared a very similar sentiment. As a Canadiens fan in the very city that bleeds bleu-blanc-rouge, there was only one socially acceptable emotion to have towards Zdeno Chara, and it definitely wasn’t love.

“You can’t not be happy for that guy, he did so much for the Bruins, but as a Habs fan, you have to hate him,” said Skelhoren. “But you can also set that aside. Like, we hate playing against him, but we’d love him on our team. And ‘il était temps,’ as we say in French, for him to retire.”

When asked about his feelings towards P.K. Subban, Skelhoren’s face lit up. He explained that Subban was unapologetically himself throughout his career, which was commendable considering how the media would often scrutinize his lackadaisical nature. 

“I really liked him,” Skelhorn said with a grin. “I really liked how he changed the game. It’s rare in hockey that we find a personality like that. We should celebrate this guy, especially for what he did for Montreal.”

As a person of colour, Subban was also a symbol of equality and representation in the NHL, which encouraged and inspired kids of all backgrounds to pursue professional sports.  

“One of my friends on my team, who was a minority, took his number and was inspired by him, and I was inspired by him too,” said Skelhoren. “He is a big inspiration on how you can just be yourself on the ice and outside of the rink.”

Alexandre Taddio, who grew up watching P.K. Subban, was not too surprised by the former Habs player’s retirement announcement, as the player had always been destined for a career in broadcasting, Taddio said. 

“When we saw him, at the end of season, broadcasting playoff games, it was just normal that he [retired],” said Taddio. “So I am not really surprised. It’s meant to be”

Zdeno Chara, who played professional hockey through four different decades, had been hinting at retirement for years. At 45 years old, it was finally time to hang up the skates.

“It’s sad, but at 45 years old, it’s about time,” said Taddio. “Chara was a good player, and I liked him. If I had a player like that on my team, I’d be [thrilled].”

These two players brought passion, heart, excitement and dedication to the sport of hockey every season, and were tremendous leaders on and off the ice within their respective communities.  Thank you for everything, and happy retirement P.K.!

Oh, and you too, Zdeno.

This article originally appeared in Volume 43, Issue 3, published September 27, 2022.