Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) – Buffalo Sabres fans got an unexpected treat before Friday’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks. Goaltender Malcolm Subban sang the U.S. National Anthem to the delight of his teammates.
The players were surprised, because they thought Subban would tape the performance, not do it live. Subban says he really hadn’t ever sung in front of a crowd before.
“I’ve been singing for a pretty long time just for fun, just around the house and stuff," said Subban on Saturday during his end-of-season press conference. "It puts me in a good mood, and I always just loved to sing. But I hadn’t sang seriously for someone since a couple of days before.”
Subban says original the plan had been to tape it, but he credited his teammates for changing that, which was a decision he made the day before.
“The boys encouraged me. It wouldn’t have happened without them, and it was cool that it happened in front of an old team as well," Subban said. "It’s fun seeing their reactions as well, and the crowd eased me in to it and made it a lot easier.”
Subban of course was a mess before doing it.
"I was so nervous before, like I couldn’t even eat lunch," he said. "I was so nervous, but just hearing the fans' reaction made it all worth it, for sure.”
Subban only got to play in four games with the Sabres before getting injured and having season-ending surgery. He chose to stay here and do his rehab, because he loved being around the team.
“Coming in, it’s a great group," Subban said. "They made it a lot easier for me to fit in, and I think the chemistry in the room just kept building. For me, just sticking around and doing rehab made it a lot easier for me to get through it.”
Subban is just another player that is speaking highly about what the Sabres have developed here.
“It’s one of the things that makes it so fun," the 28-year-old netminder said. "When you’re able to come to the rink and know you’re going to have a good time, and the guys got your back and are there to help you and lift you up when you’re not feeling so good.”
In his final game with the Sabres, Subban was in the game because Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen had gotten hurt in the first period. In the second, Tampa Bay Lightning forward Pat Maroon fell into him and Subban couldn’t pick up his stick. Had Subban left the game, Buffalo would’ve had to use the third goalie in the stands. Instead, Subban decided to gut it out.
“When it happened, I knew something was up," he explained. "It was pretty painful, and I tried picking up my stick and I just remember skating from corner-to-corner trying to grip my stick. 'Uppie' getting hurt in the first, for me it was just, 'Let’s try to play with it and see how it goes,' and I ended up just sticking it out.”
The Sabres had both Craig Anderson and Dustin Tokarski out, so they wanted to give Subban a chance to see exactly what they had traded for. Subban only has 86 NHL games under his belt with Buffalo, Chicago, the Boston Bruins and Vegas Golden Knights. He says he really was looking forward to that opportunity.
“It’s frustrating, but there’s always going to be obstacles, and it’s tough," Subban said. "You get traded, and you want to have a good first impression and build some trust with everyone, but you have to focus on what you can control.”
With both Erik Portillo and Devon Levi going back to college for another season, the Sabres have a lot of holes to fill in both Buffalo and with the Rochester Americans. Subban is an unrestricted free agent, but he doesn’t want to go anywhere. He wants to re-sign with the Sabres.
“I’d love to," Subban admitted. "Being close to home (Toronto) and seeing the group here, it’s been an awesome ride so far. And seeing the crowd, I mean, I remember going to that Bills-Patriots playoff game and seeing the crowd. I just remember thinking, 'If we’re in the playoffs, the crowds are going to be like this.' So there are unbelievable fans here, and hopefully we can keep it going.”
As far as the injury rehab goes, Subban hasn't been back on the ice yet.
“I’ll probably start skating around June, just to get it back to as comfortable as I can. So I’ve got some time, and I don’t want to rush that,” Subban said.
Chances are if general manager Kevyn Adams wants to re-sign Subban, it would be to be Rochester’s starting goalie to start. I think he’d want a more established goaltender to be in Buffalo with Luukkonen.
Adams will be speaking on Tuesday, along with head coach Don Granato, starting at 11 a.m. ET. You’ll be able to hear both live on WGR Sports Radio 550.