The NHL is certainly in an era where fighting has taken a less prominent role in the game. Instead, the league is dominated by speed and skill players. Fighting still exists, however. In a recent interview, PK Subban reminisces on a time he threw down defending New Jersey Devils star, Jack Hughes.
Following the 2018-19 seasons the Nashville Predators traded Subban to the Devils in exchange for Steven Santini, Jeremy Davies, and a second-round pick in 2019 and 2020. That was the day after New Jersey selected Hughes first overall in the 2019 NHL Draft that year. From the moment New Jersey acquired Subban, he and Hughes formed a brotherly bond.
Toward the end of his NHL career, the former Norris Trophy winner and All-Star changed his role. He was no longer the skilled offensive defenseman. Instead, he was the veteran who sacrificed for the youth of a rebuilding Devils team.
In an interview won The Pat McAfee Show, Subban recalls a time he came to the aid of the Devils star.
“I’ll tell you how it started,” Subban began to joke. “It started with someone not packing a lunch and getting served.”
That player was Oliver Wahlstro of the New York Islanders. In a meaningless game for New Jersey in which they were already not making the playoffs and the Islanders were, Subban defended Hughes after Wahlstrom threw a big hit on the then-20-year-old forward.
Subban knew Hughes was a star before most. As a result, he treated him as such playing the older brother role.
“You can’t touch Jack Hughes,” Subban explained to McAfee. “You do that, you get a two-piece combo. I’ll say this though, Pat. They’ve got some killers on that Islanders team. It’s a good thing that Wes McCauley and I are pretty tight. He did me a favor and gave me a two and 10. I got ejected from the game because I think he knew that those guys if they would have gotten their hands on me after that, there would have been purple drink all over the ice if you know what I mean.”
Those “killers” Subban is referring to are most definitely Casey Cizikas, Matt Martin, and Cal Clutterbuck, better known as the Islanders “Identity Line.” For years on end, Martin and Clutterbuck each led the league in the hits category and weren’t afraid to drop the mitts.
“I didn’t like the hit, I didn’t like that,” Subban said. “I don’t think it was intent to injure, but you have to be more responsible than that. Jack Hughes is a star player, you’re up 3-0, it’s a nothing game, and we’re not going to the playoffs. Wahlstrom is a young kid and. He learned his lesson the hard way. I gave him the two-piece combo and the extra shot while down because he touched our star player. You’re not supposed to hit the guy when he’s down but I gave him an extra shot.”
Subban retired from the NHL. He’s a host on ESPN, talking hockey on a nightly basis. He’s vocal about his love for Hughes. However, he’s not there any longer to defend the Devils superstar. Thankfully, Hughes has other reinforcement such as Nathan Bastian and Kevin Bahl if necessary. Regardless, Subban remains on the Hughes hype train and reminded everyone of that fact on a grand stage with McAfee on Wednesday.