Keeping emotions in check will be key for P.K. Subban in homecoming game

P.K. Subban's long-awaited return to the Bell Centre happens tonight. How is he feeling ahead of the game? A sports psychologist shares a few ideas.

How is Subban feeling ahead of tonight's hotly anticipated contest? Sports psychologist shares a few ideas

Expect a very flashy goal celebration if P.K. Subban scores on his former team tonight. (NHLI via Getty Images)

It's a line usually reserved for breakups, when friends are trying to comfort friends whose relationships have gone south: "Living well is the best revenge."

Believed to have been penned by a 17th-century English poet, the phrase may very well apply to what P.K. Subban is feeling ahead of his return to the Bell Centre tonight.

When asked about the game during a news conference Wednesday, Subban said he knows there is a buzz surrounding it.

"Whenever there are games like this, with a little bit more meaning, I can't anticipate how it will feel," he said.

"That's the excitement: not knowing what will happen."

Sports psychologist Sylvain Guimond likened the game between the Montreal Canadiens, Subban's former team, and the Nashville Predators, his current team, to an encounter with an ex.

He's going to want to make himself look good, so the Habs know what they're missing. 

Spotlight won't be an issue

Guimond, who has a PhD in psychology, worked with the Canadiens for five years.

While he can't speak about interactions he's had with specific players, he said when an a player finds himself pitted against his former team, he know all eyes will be on him — and he'll want to perform.

Subban has never been one to shy away from the spotlight. Guimond has no doubt the Predators' rearguard will rise to the occasion, even if his emotions get him in a bit of trouble.

"It's going to be fun for him because he likes to be watched. He puts on a show, almost."

"For him, it's nice, but is it going to be good for his team? That I wonder," Guimond said.

Fans' emotions run high

Emotions will be running high tonight in the city Subban has called his second home.

Those emotions, Guimond said, usually fuel athletes and help more than they hinder, except if the player goes overboard.

That was a common criticism levelled against Subban — he would get stuck trying to do too much, leading to turnovers and other missteps. Guimond said it's very possible we'll see more of the same tonight.

Think the right thoughts

The key, Guimond said, will be for Subban to keep his thoughts in check.

"A player has to be aware of the kind of thoughts he has every single minute, almost. He has to question himself — is this thought going to help me or put me down?"

After that, Guimond said, it's all about giving your brain specific commands.

"Tonight, maybe he'll say, 'I have to be careful about turnovers.' That's not what he has to think of. He has to think of what he wants to do, not what he doesn't want to do."

But Guimond doesn't think Subban will have any issues keeping himself in check tonight.

"He's a professional athlete," he said. "For sure, he's going to try to skate more with the puck, do maybe a bit too much. But at the time same, he's got a lot of talent."

Subban plays a brand of hockey Habs fans haven't consistently seen since he left town.

Tonight, they will get their fill, for better or for worse.