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P.K. Subban makes a heartfelt homecoming to his adopted city of Montreal

Nashville Predators P.K. Subban signs a split jersey, worn by Pierre-Luc Cantin, showing his present and former team the Montreal Canadiens, during a ceremony, on March 1, 2017 in Montreal.

Paul Chiasson/THE CANADIAN PRESS

If nostalgia is your thing, or grandeur, the home of the Montreal Canadiens has what you need.

There are monumental statues of the greats outside, Stanley Cup banners and memories galore inside. There's a reason they give tours of the place.

So what is it exactly former Habs defenceman and fan favourite P.K. Subban misses about the Bell Centre?

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"The smell," he laughed Wednesday. "The smell of hot dogs. I miss that."

Well, that and the energy that pulsates through what he called "the Mecca of hockey."

Subban is now a member of the Nashville Predators – for anyone who may have been in a coma last July, Subban was traded there in exchange for fellow Team Canada defenceman Shea Weber – and the 27-year-old has returned to his old stomping ground for the first time.

"It's a mix of emotions, but I'm a pro," he said, latter adding, "I don't think it's fair to try to anticipate how you're going to feel."

Falling as it does immediately after the trade deadline – where the Habs were unable to address their most glaring need up front – and in the stretch run to the playoffs, "Not only is it going to be an emotional game, it's going to be an important one as well," he said.

It was easily the most-anticipated game of the year. Ticket prices on the secondary market are stratospheric.

Every game brings its lot of fans in enemy jerseys, but given the fierce attachment many segments of the Habs fan base continue to have toward Subban, there will be probably a higher incidence of Nashville yellow than for other mid-season weekday games.

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Though he may have grown up in Toronto and now practises his trade in the Music City, Subban is very much an adopted Montrealer.

Such was the case before his mammoth $10-million, seven-year fundraising commitment to the Montreal Children's Hospital, and it will continue to be because of the close friendships he has forged in the city.

"It's nearly impossible for me not to know what's going on in Montreal … regardless of whether I'm here or somewhere else I'll always be connected to the city," he told a news conference at the Bell Centre.

Much has happened since he last prowled the building's halls including the ouster of Michel Therrien, a coach who plainly didn't see eye-to-eye with his swashbuckling defenceman.

Subban was gracious toward his former coach, and to his former club, saying "it's an honour to wear that sweater" and that he still considers himself an ambassador for the city and team.

Asked about the transition to life in the southern United States, where hockey is mostly an afterthought, he allowed that it took some time but that it's gone smoothly given he doesn't have a wife or children ("that I know of, anyway").

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The bigger adjustment has been to missing time with injuries in both training camp and mid-season. With 12 points in his past 10 games, Subban is rounding into form.

He was plainly thrilled at having the opportunity to visit the Children's, where he was also presented with a Meritorious Service Cross by Governor-General David Johnston.

"It's the highest honour I've ever had," he said.

After an afternoon meeting with the team, he returned to visit with children, parents and staff, bringing teammates Mike Fisher and Roman Josi along.

He was also hoping to make time to visit his regular haunts including the restaurant run by close friend Antonio Park – "he's the best chef in the world as far I'm concerned …. I don't miss it that much; he was just in Nashville a few days ago."

Despite the best efforts of the assembled media to goad him, Subban resolutely refused to express any desire to stick it to his former team.

"We're on the road, so there's no show to put on, we're here for the two points," he said.

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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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