P.K. Subban is going to be himself, on and off the ice. Period. Now he just doesn't have to defend himself for being a distraction or, even worse, a loser, because his Nashville Predators are in the Stanley Cup finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"There's over 700 players in the National Hockey League, and if all of them sound the same, to me that's boring," Subban, 28, said in an interview for ESPN's E:60, which will air Sunday at 9 a.m. ET.
"I'm young, so I still want to be cool. I still want to have a certain style. I want to be distinct. I'm not afraid to be different from everyone else. That's me."
That hasn't always worked for everyone. As far back as mites, Subban was unusual because of his talent, his exuberance and the color of his skin.
"When P.K. started out, I didn't see too many black faces around the rinks," his dad, Karl, told E:60.
Subban's relentless competitiveness and frequent celebrations rubbed some people the wrong way.
"I don't think a lot of people had a lot of good things to say about myself or my family, and that's a shame because I don't really know what we did wrong," Subban said.
Those attitudes persisted after he was taken with the 43rd pick in the 2007 draft by his father's favorite team, the Montreal Canadiens. As a 21-year-old rookie, Subban registered 38 points, but his talk and flashy play didn't sit well in a conservative league.
"He's a guy that has come in the league and hasn't earned respect, and it's just frustrating to see a young guy like that come in here and so much as think that he's better than a lot of people," then-Flyers forward Mike Richards said in 2010. "I'm not saying I'm going to do it, but something might happen to him if he continues to be that cocky."
Veteran enforcer John Scott, who took a much different route to the NHL, still doesn't have anything nice to say about Subban.
"I don't like him. I think on the ice he's a piece of garbage," he told E:60. "Perceived as like a hotshot, this guy who thinks he's better than everybody."
Subban has been better than most. In his third full season in the league, he won the Norris Trophy as the NHL's top defenseman. He was the first black player to do so. He made four All-Star teams and became an icon in Montreal.
But the Habs, the most dominant franchise in the history of the league, couldn't make it back to the Stanley Cup finals. As the team's most visible player, Subban took the heat -- in and out of the building. In 2015, his teammates chose someone else as captain.
After the Canadiens missed the playoffs in 2016, that was it. Subban was shockingly traded to the Predators for Shea Weber, an All-Star but also a player who is 3 years older and had never led Nashville as far as the conference finals.
"I wasn't given an explanation. I didn't expect an explanation," Subban said.
Subban battled injuries early in his first season in Nashville, but he ended up with 40 points in the regular season and has 10 more during the Predators' playoff run -- the deepest the franchise has ever gone.
Nashville and Subban have embraced each other.
"The reality is, I make $9 million per year to play hockey," Subban said of the trade. "What more can I ask for? I love Montreal, but, hey, I'm going to Nashville. Have fun."