12/09/2014 12:49 pm ET

The Ice Breaker: Can P. K. Subban Win Over Hockey's Stoic Traditionalists?

Bill Wippert via Getty Images

In late September, several weeks after signing a long-term deal that gave him the third-highest average annual salary in the National Hockey League, P. K. Subban went shopping for a house. Subban, a twenty-five-year-old defenseman for the Montreal Canadiens, grew up in a diverse Toronto neighborhood called Rexdale. For the first several years of his pro career, he rented apartments, either in the tourist district of Old Montreal or in a hotel downtown, while maintaining a condo back in Toronto, to which he returned each summer for training. Now his mother, Maria, a bank officer, was encouraging him to establish roots in his adoptive city. “It’s too expensive to rent,” she said. Subban’s new contract was for eight years and seventy-two million dollars. He rode shotgun in a gray Honda sedan while his friend Marwan Ismail, a real-estate agent, drove up the hill into Westmount, a former bastion of old Anglo money. “We’re nine minutes away,” Ismail said, alluding to the Bell Centre, where the Canadiens play. “It’s—how you’d call?—a conservative area. They have their own rules, they have their own guidelines, they don’t like people coming in and saying, ‘Yeah, we want to do this. I don’t care about the architecture.’ No, no. They preserve things—out of respect for all the other units.” Subban seemed pleased. “Everything is old, but it’s beautiful,” he said.

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