P.K. Subban on TikTok, the Devils and Gary Bettman's sense of humor

P.K. Subban has been a Norris Trophy-winning defenseman, a philanthropist, the subject of a reality show and part of a celebrity power couple with his fiancée, Olympic gold-medal-winning ski racer Lindsey Vonn.

Now, we can add game show host to his list of many roles.

The New Jersey Devils defenseman is the host of "NHL Hat Trick Trivia," a weekly trivia show that features fan contests and celebrity guest appearances by everyone from country music stars to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. The show airs every Saturday on Sportsnet in Canada at noon ET, every Saturday at 12:30 p.m. on NHL's YouTube, Facebook & IGTV channels, and also on NBCSN in the U.S. (check local listings).

Subban was a guest on "ESPN On Ice" this week to discuss the show, the Devils, Bettman's sense of humor and who the next P.K. Subban is.



ESPN:Tell me about TikTok. When you and Lindsey decide to make a video, who suggests it, who directs it, how long does it take to make?

Subban: I don't know if TikTok is a sign of me getting old, but it's hard to keep up with TikTok. There's a lot of things going. There's a lot of time that needs to be dedicated to doing those videos. I don't know if I have the time to consistently bang out content that people are going to love like some of these kids are doing. It's really entertaining. I'm one of those people that loves to scroll through TikTok and get a laugh. I could do that for an hour or two. But as far as making those videos, it takes a lot of time and you have to get into a rhythm for it. So I feel like the younger you are, the more time and energy you have for it.

Lindsey and I have done a few videos, but we're a little slow out of the gate on TikTok. I think we're going to come up with a plan on how to use the platform. We're new to it. We'll figure it out.

ESPN: You're a game show host now. What's that like?

Subban:It's been a really cool experience so far. I've done a couple of hosting gigs before, whether it was "Just For Laughs" or my NBC special a couple of years ago. So I've had a little bit of experience there, but I've never done a game show. And it's been a lot of fun, interacting with the fans. What's been cool about the fan interaction part of the show is having on fans that are doctors or nurses or first responders or police officers that are working on the front lines of COVID-19. It's been great to connect with them and get perceptive. But also having some celebs come on, like having Gary [Bettman], the big commish come on and help with the show. We had Chase Rice, Patrice Bergeron, Pat Maroon ... I think it's going to be great. Moving forward, our goal is just to get better and better.

ESPN: What was it like filming with Gary Bettman? What was his personality like?

Subban:I've been in the league for a long time. Gary and I have crossed paths many times. I know that his nephews are huge Devils fans. With red carpets and awards shows, I've gotten to interact with Gary more than a lot of players have. And Gary's hilarious, in my opinion. He's got a great personality. It's just tough to show that sometimes when you're the commissioner of a league. I think he does a good job of balancing it, and not taking himself too seriously. He's obviously a very smart businessman, to have the NHL grow to what it is now. It was very cool to have him on the show. I think he's hilarious. Compared to the other [pro sports] commissioners, I'd rank him really high.

ESPN: That's a low bar, man. Last time you were on "First Take," you dropped the idea that we should have a 31-team Stanley Cup playoff. What was the feedback you got after that suggestion?

Subban:I didn't do it just to say it. I honestly believed that our team was playing much better down the stretch. We went from being a lot of games away from being a .500 team to within a game of being .500, with 13 games left to go. I think we ended up being 10 or 11 points out, but we had gotten points in eight of nine games and played good hockey down the stretch. And I think our fan base was getting a little bit excited about the way Cory [Schneider] came back and played for our team and the way [Mackenzie Blackwood] was playing in net. We were starting to put the puck in the net as well.

For our team, with that confidence, getting to play in a 31-team format could serve us very well. I think we're a team that could definitely do some damage in that format. But those are my dreams. Whether that happens or not remains to be seen.

And let's be honest here, guys: The No. 1 focus is the health and wellness of everyone. There are still a lot of people suffering and a lot of families suffering. Before we can start talking about sports, we have to see people and the situation get a lot better.

ESPN: You're one of the few hockey people that have been on "First Take." What was that like, and do you think that Stephen A. Smith is a hockey fan?

Subban:I've been very lucky. I was on the first time during the NBA Finals when the Raptors were rolling. I got to do that in my hometown [Toronto], so I was very lucky. I stay in touch with Stephen A. I text him now and again. He always answers back, which is really nice. [Laughs]

ESPN: What do you text him about?

Subban:Whenever I see him on TV, I'll text him about certain things that are going on, just to get his take on them. It's usually short blasts. But I remember messaging him recently before I was coming on to tell him I was excited for it, and we exchanged texts after the show as well. I actually love the show. I watch it every day. I know at Prudential Center, when we go into the lounge every morning, game day or not, it's always on.

So I'm a fan of the show. And I'm a fan of Steven A. and Max Kellerman and Molly Qerim. They bring a ton of energy, but they're very smart sports people as well.

ESPN: You mentioned the Devils before. With an interim coach and an interim GM, this Devils offseason seemed like it could change the course of the franchise. Is there a sense of uncertainty among the boys, and is it even more uncertain now during this season pause?

Subban:There's a lot of uncertainty for all teams. There's uncertainty about the [salary] cap and where it's going to go. We went from the cap possibly going up by $2.5 million to possibly now going down. So there are a lot of different things happening, and not just for the Devils. For us, we're one of the youngest teams in the league. We have to continue to build for the future, and build to be a competitive team.

And I'm just trying to do my part. When you get in over your head is when you think that you can control everything and you can't. All you can do is just do your job. There's no question this season was a tough one for all of us, in trying to figure it out. The coach gets fired. [Taylor] Hall gets traded. Different things happened. But I felt our team salvaged a lot of pride with the way we played and competed throughout the year. Coming to the rink was fun for me personally. I really enjoyed playing with this group and being with them every day. I'm very optimistic about the future of this team.

But there's no question that with everything going on, it's going to be difficult to make your team better. For some teams that are pushing against the cap and have to make changes, we'll see what happens. That's the way the cookie crumbles sometimes.

ESPN: What went wrong with the Devils this season?

Subban:It's hard to pinpoint one specific thing. All you can do is look back at all the things that happened.I know that in my time in the league, when so many changes happen, it's very difficult to find a groove.

With our team, we found a groove towards the end of the season. We had more consistent success. But earlier in the season, it was just more difficult. Look at the first game of the season. We're up on Winnipeg 4-0 going into the third and we lose in overtime. And we lost a couple of games like that in the first six or seven games of the season. So when that happens, it's tough, especially with a young team. It just seemed like we couldn't get our feet under us.

But that's a part of learning. Our group has to learn from those experiences. If you want to change the culture of an organization, you have to be determined to do that as a group. It's not going to come from just bringing in new players, or thinking that it's going to come from outside the locker room. You have to understand who's in that locker room, and who's there has to get the job done. I've been around 11 years playing pro hockey. I've seen a lot of ups and downs. I remember one year in Montreal, I think we won the first nine games in the season. In December we were 19-4. And we didn't even make the playoffs. So anything can happen. It's an 82-game season.

ESPN: Finally, you've always been a player that's not afraid to put himself out there as a personality. Who's the player in the league now that you'd like to see put themselves out there more and maybe be the next P.K. Subban?

Subban:Wow. I mean, I don't think I would approach anybody in the league with "you should be the next P.K. Subban."

ESPN: That's fair. That's fair.

Subban:But one thing that is fair is that I am who I am. What you see is what you get. I've never been one to really care about haters or detractors. People who don't think I should be doing stuff on TV or don't think I should be trying to do things while I'm playing -- I'm opposed to people who think like that. I think It's shallow-minded.

Instead of pinpointing one specific player, I'm excited about how the culture of hockey is changing. Without it being controlled, it's been interesting to see how individual players have chosen to take it. I'll give you an example: [Devils defenseman]Connor Carrickjust started a podcast. On social media, he talks about mental health. His podcast is unbelievable. Lindsey and I watch [on YouTube]. He might not have the following that Lindsey or I have, but I love to see a guy like that -- who isn't traditionally well-known -- taking it upon himself to talk about mental health and be strong in that regard, and confident in that regard.

So it doesn't have to be something on a major scale. It doesn't have to be a huge production. You don't have to be hosting a TV show to show your personality. You just have to do what you like to do, what resonates with you, and what makes sense for you. I see Auston Matthews doing his thing. I know he's really into the EA Sports thing. And he's got the style. I see Willie Nylander and Miles Wood doing the Tootsie Slide dance [on video]. It's just fun to see guys be themselves, doing what they like to do and running with it. If you're a guy that likes to read books, talk about that. If you like to look at birds, talk about that. If you like to work out, take videos of that. It's just whatever you're into.

I've always been true to what I'm into. I like working out, so I post a lot my videos because I get asked about them. I go on TV because I get offered to go on TV. I do things that I know are going to make myself happy. I have 24 hours in a day. I can't train or be treated for 24 hours, so I got a lot of time on my hands. I don't have kids yet. Until I do, I'll continue to do these things and have fun.
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