Exclusive: P.K. Subban talks about getting Canadians active and how his parents inspired him as he launches 'Let’s Move the World' with CLIF

By Heather Cichowski

Summer is here, and with it, the opportunity to head outdoors and get active. The prospect of re-openings across Canada also brings with it chances to get in some good exercise.

NHL All-Star P.K. Subban knows a great deal about keeping active. The 32-year-old New Jersey Devils defenceman and Norris Trophy winner has partnered with CLIF for the "Let's Move the World" campaign.The exciting initiative, which officially launched on June 28, aims to get Canadians moving safely and encourages them to have an open mind about trying new things.

As part of the partnership, CLIF has donated $30,000 to the P.K. Subban Foundation, which is focused on creating positive change through building a community of people who are passionate about helping children around the globe. The Canadian athlete launched the foundation in 2014.

HELLO! Canada spoke with Toronto-born P.K. ahead of the "Let's Move the World" campaign launch to find out more about his partnership with CLIF, his tips for getting active and how his family has supported him.

HELLO! Canada: What made you feel really inspired to get involved in the CLIF "Let's Move the World" campaign and get Canadians moving now?

P.K.: First of all, getting involved with CLIF and the "Let's Move the World" campaign was really a no brainer for me, I think as far as the alignment goes with what I've been doing over my career, and what I continue to do. It was the perfect alignment, when you talk about inspiring people – you know, really influencing people to have an open mind. Obviously, with their products, they're talking about being able to fuel people with the energy to go out and do the things they want to do.

But, more importantly, through the timing of it. What we're all really trying to accomplish is to empower people to be confident and want to get up every day and make a difference. And for me, I don't only want to make a difference on the ice, I want to make a difference in people's lives and how I can inspire them. And I think working with CLIF was the perfect partnership for me and I'm really excited about it. They're donating $30,000 to my Subban Defence League, which is huge, especially with the timing to be able to support families and kids who can’t afford to really go to any hockey camps or hockey schools, to be able to get those opportunities.

Photo: © Courtesy of CLIF

You know, I was one of those kids that didn't have a whole lot. I remember that when I was doing hockey schools, how I paid for my hockey school was I had to be an instructor when I wasn't a player in order to pay for me being able to be on the ice during the hockey school. So, I had to go on and demonstrate drills and push pucks and do all that stuff. And for some of these kids to be able to get a scholarship because of CLIF and the "Let's Move the World" campaign, and everything that they're doing and my partnership with them, really means a lot to me. It's not easy raising money. It's not easy getting people to raise money. And it's not easy making people see the difference that it can make. But I'm very happy that CLIF sees that and has chosen to support us.

For me, I'm just so happy that I’m getting $30,000 from them and it's going to helping kids. It's like "wow," you know? It's great. So, I'm just truly flattered and, actually, the more I say it, the more I don’t believe that it's actually happening, so I'm really excited.

Speaking of families and kids, what are your tips for them getting active, especially some who might not have been as active or were maybe hesitant to get out there this summer?

I think it’s just about having an open mind to trying new things. Really, that's what it is about. I look at this pandemic, and obviously there is a lot of downtime, but that's a lot of downtime to try new things to get out there. There are so many people who have benefited from that time and what we want to do is that kids, families and people understand that you can be a part of it. You can be a part of inspiring the person next to you, and the person next to that person.

And take advantage of that. Take advantage of that opportunity. And I think that mindful choices, being persistent in what your goals are, all those things. I think that's so, so important in this world. And I'm just happy, like I said, to be having this partnership with CLIF and to be able to have this influence just adds to this platform that I already have and the platform they have. I think it's just a perfect partnership.

P.K.'s striking "Let’s Move the World" sketch, by local Canadian artist, Stephanie McKay. Photo: © Stephanie McKay

What's your biggest tip for families?

Biggest tip for families is to have an open mind. Having an open mind is such a difficult thing. My dad told me "An open mind is a gold mind." I really believe that… I've heard that a million times from my dad. It's just always about having an open mind. It's like for me, with a lot of things that I’m doing, if I didn't have an open mind, I probably wouldn't have the foundation that I have. I probably wouldn't have created the Subban Defence League. I probably wouldn't have some of these other initiatives that have helped a lot of other people. I'm very thankful for the fact I've opened my mind to different things. When you open your mind you realize the power that you actually have, you know?

There have been a lot of hockey players like me who have gone through the NHL, and were great hockey players that made a lot of money, that were popular with fans that know who they are, but I'm very proud of what I have been able to accomplish off the ice in terms of helping people. That started at a young age. That started at 22 years old, and a lot of that comes from my parents and the support system that I had around me.

My advice to families would be to continue to support your kids to do as much as they can. Support them in their goals and initiatives. It might look different than what you plan for them, but support them in that. And to those kids: Listen to your parents. The parents that love you and are there to support you will always be there to guide you in the right direction.

For those parents, in today's world there are kids that are so creative, that want to be creative in the ways that they can help people, and the ways that they can achieve their goals, and I think that they just need a little bit of support to do that. That's what we’re trying to create is just openness, an open mind. We're trying to really inspire people to be the best that they can to inspire more people.

Speaking of your parents, how did they encourage you to stay active?

They told me "Listen, with all of this money I'm paying out for hockey, you need to go out and work hard." No, I’m just kidding. I'm very, very lucky. Very, very lucky. I'm convinced that I have the best parents in the world and I say that with the understanding that obviously there are a lot of great parents out there, but my parents to me are the greatest in the world. Like, even to this day, they’re the best.

And they're so supportive. They’ve always taught me that no matter what, I need to be myself and I think that's the biggest thing. You have to feel comfortable in your own skin. They made me feel comfortable in my own skin at a very early age, and that has allowed me to kind of grow on my own and make my own decisions, learn from my mistakes and get better.

What I've realized is that with all the success you can have, true success is being able to pull people along with you and bring people into that success. I think that's why my partnership with CLIF is great because it's not about me and it's not about CLIF, it's about how many people we can really inspire and bring together. And that's what it should be about; that's how the world turns.

How can you inspire people to feel happy? We want everybody to be happy. We want everybody to be successful. We want everybody to have good energy. We want everybody to have a good mindset. We want everybody to have an open mind. When you do that, it’s what I call "bella vita," it's the beautiful life. It's all the good things that we ask for, so I'm very thankful for my family and my parents, and I'm also very thankful for this partnership.

Photo: © Courtesy of CLIF

Is that the sentiment you want to pass on to younger generations and even younger relatives?

Yeah, I want to pass it on. I want to pass it on to as many people as I can, but during that, inspiring other people sometimes can inspire yourself. Learning. You also have to realize that the more people you interact with and inspire, the more you learn. The more you learn about yourself. The more you learn about what's important in life. The more you learn about how you can be better and the more creative ideas you can get on how you can help other people. Part of me growing as a person is continuing to do my job and inspiring people and use my platform to touch as many people as I can.

What are your favourite summer activities?

Well, you know, I enjoy long walks on a beach, an occasional good book every now and then… you know. Nah, I'm just kidding.

In the summertime, I spend a lot of summers…it has really become a lifestyle for me, what I do. And how do I best describe my lifestyle? Well, I'm a pro athlete who has to train to be able to do what I do. But, I don't train for performance. Yes, a lot of my stuff is so I can perform, but this is a lifestyle that I've adopted.

Taking care of myself is a 365-day thing for me. It's not a three or four month thing, and it wasn't always like that. Earlier on in my career, it was about training really hard, getting to the season and not really understanding how to fuel my body right and do all of the right things, mindfulness and what I have to do for my mind and for my well-being, and all of those things.

That's why this partnership is so great because it touches all of those things. Fuelling your body right, energy right. It's like, boom, boom, boom. It's like a hat trick, it hits them all.

And for me, I look at my 12-year career and where I am now and how it took me to get there, and for the past five or six years, I've paid attention to all of those little details, and the difference that has made in my life is huge. I think a lot of times people think that how they prepare to do their job and their profession is what's best for them, but really, it's coupling that and aligning that with what's best for you as a person.

If you are in a good place, and have good energy as a person, you will do better at what you do. And I think that's what we’re trying to accomplish through my foundation, through the Subban Defence League, through the "Let's Move the World" campaign, getting people to a place where as people, they're the best people, they're the best version of themselves, with how they take care of themselves – mind and body. That's the goal.

Photo: © Courtesy of CLIF

Was there a turning point or a specific moment, where you said to yourself you have to focus on "the hat trick" you described or was it a more gradual process?

Yes, I think it was more gradual. I don't think there was any type of turning point. I've always taken really good care of myself. I've always been focused. I mean you don't get to the NFL by not taking good care of yourself, or not doing the things that you need to do.

But I think understanding how do I sustain this, what do I want to do? Do I want my success to just be in hockey or do I want my success to be in life? And I think that hockey, at the end of the day, it's not about looking down the road, it's not about looking after your career, or anything like that, but it doesn't last forever. And for me, if I want to play hockey as long as I can, then you have to make those changes. You have to understand that it has to become a lifestyle for you.

Ultimately, if you want to have true success, it's gotta be a lifestyle: eating, sleeping, taking care of yourself, mindfulness, taking care of your mind and how you feel and your energy, and the people around you, all of those things are so, so important, and I think that people sometimes try to separate them, and I don't think that you can because even though you're an athlete, you're still a person at the end of the day.

What are your favourite snacks or recovery meals to eat after getting active?

I can name a lot of products that CLIF has, but the CLIF Builder Bar. When we did that shoot, I can tell you right now, on a cheat day, I could have six or seven of those bars. I'm not going to say anything else. I'm just saying that CLIF Builder Bar is unbelievable.

Any particular flavour?

It doesn't even matter. Just go home and get it. CLIF Builder Bar. I dare you to try it because you'll probably eat the whole box. So don't be surprised, and don't blame me either for it.

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