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Subban rivalry plays out on the ice at the Bell Centre

The Montreal Canadiens play the arch-rival Boston Bruins Monday, a preseason matchup that features the first-ever competitive meeting between Norris Trophy-winning defenceman P.K. Subban and his kid brother Malcolm.

No one ever made it to the NHL by being happy to lose – at hockey, at cards or at video games.

And at the Subban household in Toronto, whenever Jordan or Malcolm suffered defeat at the hands of older brother P.K. on the family's game console, recriminations were sure to follow.

"[Jordan]'s the worst. Both Malcolm and Jordan, I can remember them crying when they would lose to me," the 24-year-old Montreal Canadiens defenceman said before pausing. "Because I'd be that guy that'd be rubbing it in their face. They'd be throwing temper tantrums. My mom would say, 'Okay, that's enough, no more PlayStation, go read a book or something.' "

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There is a sizable benefit to having hyper-competitive siblings: They tend to drive each other to ever greater heights.

And so it was Monday that Karl and Marie Subban sat in the stands of the Bell Centre to watch their eldest son, crowned the NHL's best defenceman last season, take on his 19-year-old brother, Malcolm, a 2012 first-round draft choice and promising goalie prospect for the Boston Bruins.

Early bragging rights went to P.K., who ripped an absolute rocket of a slap shot past Boston starter Chad Johnson on a second-period 5-on-3. (Malcolm looked on impassively from his perch near the visitors' dressing room.)

When Malcolm made his entrance at the 10 minute 40 second mark of the second, he was greeted by boos and scattered cheers. The record will show he made his first NHL save on a speculative left-wing wrister from Christian Thomas.

It was the first occasion the Subban brothers had faced each other in a live game (Malcolm and Jordan play together all the time, but in identical Belleville Bulls jerseys).

"Only on the outdoor rink, with mini-sticks in the basement, or during summer hockey," P.K. said after the Habs morning skate.

All that's missing to hold a proper "Subban Bowl" is 18-year-old Jordan, a defenceman who was among the cuts at the Vancouver Canucks camp Monday. (He was the Canucks' fourth choice in the 2013 draft.)

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"Obviously, it's pretty cool to finally be here, but like I said, I'm just worried about the game right now," said Malcolm, who is considerably less loquacious in public than his big brother.

Asked before the game if there would be any friendly fraternal wagers on the outcome, he just chuckled and said: "No."

And would his parents have divided loyalties?

"No, they'll cheer for both us," he said.

How do you feel about playing your brother?

"Pretty good right now, obviously, I'm just worrying about the full game, not too much about that."

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He may not have P.K.'s charisma, but at least he's taller.

On second thought, perhaps Malcolm was coached up by his media-savvy brother on an easy way to defuse the spotlight: Reporters will leave you alone if they lose interest.

Sibling rivalry has its limits, P.K. is quite close to his brothers and proud they are carving out a hockey career of their own, and said the best thing he can do for Malcolm as he works his way toward the NHL – he has a year of junior eligibility remaining – is stay out of his way.

"I'm happy for him, but he's doing it all on his own," he said.

The brothers insisted their parents would be cheering for both in equal measure, but that may have required a bit of an effort from Karl, who became an ardent Habs fan when his family emigrated from Jamaica to Sudbury.

P.K. has called the moment he was drafted by Montreal – the team he grew up watching – was the best day of his life, but struck a conciliatory tone Monday.

"I was telling my dad I might have to get him a jersey with Canucks, Boston and Montreal on it, I don't know how we're going to work that out," he said with a laugh.

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About the Author
National Correspondent

Sean Gordon joined the Globe's Quebec bureau in 2008 and covers the Canadiens, Alouettes and Impact, as well as Quebec's contingent of Olympic athletes. More


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