By Rob Ficiur
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,…we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…” Charles Dickens novel A Tale of Two Cities begins with these contrasting phrases. The novel was describing the French Revolution over 200 years ago.
The same lines describe the office tales of two NHL defensemen this week. It was the best of times, the largest single donation ever received on the Montreal Children’s hospital. Montreal Canadiens super star P.K. Subban pledged $10 million dollars to support the children’s hospital in his adopted home city.
PK’s father described his son’s excitement the day of the announcement, saying to his parents that this was the best day of his life. Subban downplayed his donation saying that he had been so blessed in his life. The real measure of a person’s life is not what they get, but what you do for others.
The twenty six year old Olympic Gold Medalist vowed more than just his dollars, he promised to continue donating his time. Subban’s first visit to the Montreal Children’s hospital was on Christmas day 2009, his first NHL Christmas. He went to the hospital without the media and without cameras, He just wanted to visit the sick children. He promised they would see more of him in the coming years. PK’s life changed shortly after the 2010 Haiti earthquake. After the trip there he realized how blessed he was and said “When I came back to Canada, I made a point to myself that I wasn’t going to allow my profession to dictate how I live my life.” He has found the way that he can give back to the community.
Subban’s donation is the largest given by a Canadian athlete. On hand for the ceremony was Elise Béliveau, the wife of late Canadiens legend Jean Béliveau. Subban learned from Jean how to give back to the community. Elise expected that PK would be able to give more than her husband ever did, because the NHL salaries are higher now than in his days.
When I googled top athletes and donations I found an interesting list of the top charity donators. The list included: Tiger Woods, Serena Williams, Eli Manning, LeBron James, Andre Agassi and David Robertson. Each donated to a cause that was near to them.
The same day of Subban’s announcement, 25 year old Slava Voynov announced he was returning to Russia. Technically he was deporting himself voluntary – but only because it looked like US immigration was going to deport him. Voynov just got out of jail for pleading no contest in the criminal charges of domestic violence.
Voynov will leave the United States and the NHL with two Stanley Cup rings and at least sixteen million regrets. On the monetary level he is leaving behind at least that much in a guaranteed contract. At a professional level he was a rising star on a Stanley Cup team he was suspended in October 2014. No doubt he will find a place to play in the KHL or somewhere in Europe. When you have been at the highest level of your sport, moving down a notch or two is not going to advance your career. In a couple of years, Voynov will likely try to get work visa so he can resume his NHL career. No doubt there will be teams interested in taking a chance on him, even though his career will have been off course for three or more years.
Before we feel sorry for someone convicted of domestic abuse, the real tragedy is the abuse and the victim. The NHL took a leadership role in suspending Voynov immediately after the incident. We hope that the Voynov’s can make the best of their life together. His wife has maintained throughout the criminal proceedings that this violence of last October was out of character for her husband. After going through the public humiliation of the court case, they have stuck together.
Like each one of us athletes can chose to give of their time and talent and money to the charities and causes to bless the lives of others. Like each one of us they make mistakes. The choices they make after paying for their mistakes will determine where they are five and ten years down the road.