Chat wrap: Hamilton’s P.K. Subban

Hamilton Bulldogs rookie defenseman and 2010 AHL All-Star P.K. Subban stepped into the AHL Chat Room on Tuesday, Mar. 2... Below is P.K.’s chat transcript.

Was there anyone or anything that first inspired you to begin playing the game of hockey? – Alyssa from Montreal
My dad grew up in Sudbury, Ont., where he watched and played a little bit of hockey. He’s not a big hockey guy in terms of playing it, but he did play a little bit of hockey and he grew up watching the Sudbury Wolves and Randy Carlyle and those types of players. So I was born into a family that was already about hockey, and I had that fire and that passion to play from a very young age. My dad was a huge Habs fan.

Can you take us through your draft day experience back in June 2007? – Bryce from Kenora, Ont.
It was a tremendous experience. At first, I wasn’t too sure if I was going to go to the draft or not, but I had a couple interviews to do down there, so I went down there and just enjoyed the experience. It was great when I was selected by Montreal, obviously being a huge Habs fan, and my dad being a big Habs fan also. It was a great feeling, it brought tears to his eyes, and that’s where my pro career started. It was just an unbelievable day.

Have you tried to model your game after any particular defenseman? – Jared from Oxford, Mass.
Well obviously Bobby Orr is the best defenseman to play the game and one of the best players to ever play the game, so in terms of patterning after a player, there’s no better player to pattern yourself after than the best player to ever play at that position. I watch the best of Bobby Orr tapes – I wasn’t old enough to be able to watch him play, but there are a lot of tapes lying around at home that I can watch and study what he did. He’s definitely someone that I try and pattern myself after.

How have your experiences on both the Belleville Bulls and World Junior teams helped you become a better hockey player? – Macgregor from Kitchener, Ont.
Huge. With the organization and the coaching staff there – with (head coach) George Burnett – my experience in Belleville was tremendous for my development in terms of me becoming a better player and person. I owe a lot of credit and a lot of the success that I’ve had to the coaching staff there and the organization. So the impact that they’ve had in Belleville on my career has been huge.

And the World Junior Championship – I played in two, but the one last year was the big one for me. I played a lot more than I did in my first year, and to play in that gold medal game and be part of that was a tremendous feeling. It certainly prepared me for my first year of pro hockey.

What have you improved on and how has your game grown so far as a rookie this season with Hamilton? – Kevin from Boston, Mass.
I think since the start of the year, I’ve just tried to improve in all areas of my game and just get better and mature as a player. I think at the start of the season, I was given that opportunity to play and to develop, and I just sort of grabbed it and ran with it. And obviously living on your own now, you’re a professional, it’s not junior anymore. So just maturing and becoming a man, those little things obviously help me become a better player on the ice as well as off.

In terms of skill, I don’t think that there’s a huge, huge difference. In juniors, you have the cream of the crop in terms of the skilled players, and everybody else is sort of a role player. But in terms of the way the game is played, I think there is a difference. The speed of the game is definitely quicker than juniors you can’t take any shifts off here, every shift is huge, the pace of the game, and it’s a lot more physical.

Has coach Guy Boucher’s system changed your playing style at all? – Michael from Dollard-des Ormeaux, Quebec
No, not at all. Guy and I have had many conversations in terms of my play on the ice, and the one thing he’s told me is that he’s never tried to take anything away from my game. I think with me, it’s just a matter of knowing when to do things and when not to, and that’s all part of the maturity process. That was the biggest thing for me this year, just to mature. And I’ve been doing that and I’ve been learning a lot and getting better every day.

I think my style has actually excelled in his systems, because using my skills the right way within his system has helped the team tremendously. So we’ve definitely clicked. And it always seems that with every coach, I always find a way to still play my game but still do what the team needs me to do. So it’s never been an issue, and it’s been great this year for us.

What has been the best part about being a member of the Hamilton Bulldogs this season? – Jessica from Hamilton, Ont.
Just the camaraderie within the team has been great. The chemistry that we have has been unbelievable in terms of the players jelling and becoming a family. It’s been a great experience for me. Obviously being called up with a couple of the players and coming back down (has been great, too). A lot of players in the AHL will tell you they’d rather be up in the NHL, but when you’re down here with the Bulldogs, it’s unbelievable, from the coaching staff to the trainers to the players to the fans to the wives and spouses. It’s been fun all year, I’ve enjoyed it, and we have a great team in there and a great family. We’re looking forward to this last stretch.

Now that you’ve had a taste of the NHL a few weeks back, what impressed you the most about it? – Carlos from Grand Rapids, Mich.
I think that everybody’s in the right position, and I find that you just have to do your job. You have to move the puck, and when you’re ready to move it, guys are usually in the right position. That’s the biggest difference that I noticed, but the game doesn’t really change. It’s the same game that you play in the AHL, the same game that you play in juniors. Other than a few things in terms of the skill level like we said, and the speed and the size, it’s the same hockey game. There’s not a huge change, but there are still some adjustments that you need to make.

What do you say to people who think your style of game is too risky, that you are taking too many chances, and that it will not translate well in the NHL? – Richard from Lorraine, Quebec
Well people have been telling me that for my whole life. I don’t really see the risk in my game. I see things I can do that players can’t do. And just because another player can’t protect the puck like I can… Everybody’s different. There are things that players do better than I do, and there are things that I do better than other players. I think that what people say is, “Why does he do that? That’s risky.” Well maybe I get away with it 98 percent of the time.

I’m going to make mistakes. I’m only human, I’m still learning, I’m 20 years old. I’m going to make mistakes out there. But that’s part of my game, I try to create things when I’m out there to help my team, to put points on the board and keep the puck out of my net. The way I see it is, if I can do it and other players can’t, then that’s too bad. If it works when I do it, then I’m going to continue to do it as long as it isn’t hurting the team in any way, and it’s helping the team.

What do you do before a typical game to get ready or to motivate yourself? – Jaleel from Grimsby, Ont.
Every game for me is a little different. It all depends on how much hockey I’ve been playing. When you have three games in four nights, sometimes by the third game you just sort of get ready to play. There’s not much you have to do, you’re already in game mode because you’re playing so much. But if it’s your first game in three nights or four nights, I’ll do things differently, maybe do a little more of an active warm-up before games.

I’m not too picky. Just based on the game or the team we’re playing, I prepare differently. I’m not too superstitions or have too big of a plan before a game. I just warm up the way I feel I have to.

What was it like playing in the AHL All-Star Skills Competition and All-Star Game as a rookie? – Jordan from Hamilton, Ont.
It was a lot of fun to meet the other skilled players from the other teams. Some of them I haven’t played against this year, and I won’t play against them this year. It was good to see them there and just to get to know them off the ice. You hear so many great things about them during the season, but to be able to be there with them, play with them, talk with them off the ice, spend some time and get to know them, it was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed the experience.

Do you enjoy visiting the different cities when you’re on the road, and which one or two cities do you think have been your favorite? – Jason from Rochester, N.Y.
I do enjoy it. I mean, you want to be at home a little longer than we are sometimes, but I like going to other cities. Going to Chicago was pretty sweet, I like the city there. And the Texas trip – going to San Antonio and Houston – that was a fun one because I’ve never been to San Antonio or (Austin) or Houston or anywhere around there. I’ve never been to any of those places until this year. So it was pretty neat to go to those places and see what it’s like there and how the people are. I didn’t even know there was hockey down there until this year, so it was pretty cool and I would say those are my favorite places.

And I’d never been to Abbotsford either – a lot of these places are firsts for me. Every time I go to a different city, some guys say, “Oh well, we’re going to Abbotsford,” and they’ll say the things they like or don’t like about the places. But me, I just kind of go with an open mind because I’ve never been there before. Every trip’s an adventure for me, and I just try and enjoy it.

What is the funniest prank that one of your teammates has pulled on you? – Jackie from Montreal
Wow. Oh, I have a good one actually. This has never happened to me until this year. After practice one day, I showered up and I was getting changed. I went to go put on my pants, and my pockets were sewn shut, and my phone was inside my pocket along with my keys. So I had to go and get my pockets unsewn there. To this day, I still don’t know who did it, but the guys had a pretty good laugh watching me try to get the stitching out of my pockets. So that was pretty funny.

What do you think you’d be doing if you were not playing hockey? – Jill from Hamilton, Ont.
Well obviously I’d be in university right now. I think I’d be working toward becoming an educator of some sort, whether it be a teacher, but I’d ultimately want to be a principal one day and work with kids, try and help them and educate them.

My dad’s a principal, and my sister’s a teacher, and her boyfriend’s a teacher, so there are a couple of educators in my family. That would be something I think I’d like to get into. I enjoy working with kids and helping them, and that would definitely be something I’d consider doing.