How hockey helped Karl Subban tap into his family's potential

P. K. Subban's father recounts the way hockey shaped his household in his memoir, How We Did It.
Author and coach Karl Subban, along with journalist Scott Colby, give readers advice on raising athletes. (Henry Guo/ Penguin Random House Canada)
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Karl Subban and his wife, Maria, have raised five children. Their two daughters are teachers and their three sons — P.K., Malcom and Jordan — have all been drafted to the NHL. Not many hockey parents can claim that kind of success — especially when Karl and Maria knew nothing about hockey when they first moved to Canada from the Caribbean in the 1970s. Karl is also a retired principal and has spent more than three decades teaching, coaching and parenting children. He chronicles his family's journey in the memoir How We Did It: The Subban for Success in Hockey, School and Life.

How the Subbans did it

"As parents, we want our children to do well. I was overcome with joy when P.K. officially became part of the Nashville Predators. When he was a child, we never swam as a family; we didn't walk much as a family; we didn't even go on vacation as a family because we couldn't afford it, but we skated as a family. P.K. skated a lot when he was younger — so did Malcom and Jordan as well as the girls. So the hockey grew out of that."

From Jamaica to Canada

"It was a culture shock. I was missing Jamaica because I spent my first 12 years there. I missed the sunshine, the food, my friends and cricket. But it didn't take long for me to integrate in to my new culture. The kids spoke French — I spoke my Jamaican patois — but they invited me to play hockey, which became our common language. You come to a new country and you want to fit in, you want to have friends — you want to have something to do. And hockey gave me all of those things. My cricket bat became my hockey stick and the cricket ball became my puck."

Lessons from the ice rink

"One of the things I discovered is that children want to be with you. Your time is the most important thing you can give them other than love and shelter. It's what stays with them forever. P.K. knew that time with mom and dad was good for him. So, when the Nathan Phillips Square Ice Rink in Toronto was opened, we were there. I never confused my role between a hockey dad and a dad — I knew which one was more important. Sometimes it is easy to forget which one is more important." 

Karl Subban's comments have been edited and condensed.