P.K. Subban knows one night at the rink isn’t going to change the feelings throughout an entire country. One gesture of kindness won’t end the division, one handshake won’t slice through the tension.
But what the superstar defenseman does know is that those gestures, those handshakes, those nights at a hockey game are a darn good start.
During every Nashville Predators home game this season, Subban will host his new P.K.’s Blueline Buddies program, bringing together a member of the Metro Nashville Police Department and their guest with a mentor or representative from a local organization and an underprivileged youth.
Subban takes care of the game tickets, dinner and meets with the group prior to and after the game to lift their spirits and give them a few hours to forget about everything on the outside.
Now in his second NHL season as a resident of the United States, Subban sees the news. He knew he wanted to do something, anything to try and make a difference. And now he’s doing just that.
“I think it’s important for athletes to set a tone in a way that we’re looking to build bridges,” Subban said. “That doesn’t take away from anybody’s right to do what they want to do or how they want to exercise their rights as an American citizen, but I think it’s really important for us to be role models in terms of building bridges and being a part of the solution to social issues and different things that go on in our community.”
Subban, who says one of his best friends is a police officer, believes youth and law enforcement building a rapport with one another is vital, and that’s exactly what he’s aiming to accomplish with the program.
“Our law enforcement, these are people that leave their houses and may not come back home at the end of the night,” Subban said. “That’s the job that they have, so to make them feel good, and to also be able to help underprivileged youth that don’t get an opportunity like everyone else, that come from broken homes, it’s a win-win.”
Prior to Thursday’s Predators game against Dallas at Bridgestone Arena, four guests – Metro Nashville Police officer Clint Gilleland and his son, Wyatt, and Nashville Inner City Ministry mentor Robby Thompson and Dekaylin Hayes (D.K., for short) – served as Subban’s Blueline Buddies, getting the chance to meet the defenseman prior to the game, and then again after the final horn.
Subban chatted, snapped photos and signed autographs for his guests, creating a night they’ll never forget, while also forming an impression that left Thompson and Officer Gilleland thoroughly impressed.
“It’s not just people doing this, doing that, [Subban] stepped up and said it was something he wanted to do, and that speaks a lot about his character,” Thompson said. “To take time away from his pregame routine to meet us, it’s pretty amazing.”
“I was explaining to my son this is not something that just anybody gets to do, but it was because [Subban] is genuinely just a great guy and wants to dedicate his time,” Gilleland said. “He didn’t have to do that, and I think that’s especially important in the sports world where you are trying to connect with the people of the community. That’s exactly what he was doing, so it speaks very highly, not just of his character, but of the franchise itself.”
Two home games into the season, Subban has already brought eight members of the community together, people he feels are the true stars of Nashville. For him, it’s about shining light on those who make a difference in the right ways, not only making an impact in the present, but building toward the future.
“In this world, there are bad people and there are good people,” Subban said. “We can either choose to celebrate the bad ones all the time, or we can celebrate the good ones. I think it’s important to build people up and to make people feel good.”
Eventually, Subban hopes to get other players involved in similar initiatives, not just from the NHL, but the NFL, NBA and MLB as well. For him, this isn’t simply a chance for a photo-op. Rather the opportunity to have a conversation, to understand someone else’s viewpoints, to make a difference – that’s what matters.
So maybe that handshake, that smile, that night shared watching a game and cheering for a team that brings the community together, that can be the start of something greater.
“The concept is about building bridges in our community and not being divisive,” Subban said. “I think that’s the most important thing of all.”