ParenTalks: The Power of Potential

Karl Subban freely admits that he and his wife Maria really had no business producing three professional hockey players. 

Subban, a native of Jamaica, immigrated to Sudbury, Ontario with his family at the age of 12. His wife Maria, from the Caribbean island of Monserrat.

“We weren’t born with hockey genes,” he quipped before a full-house of St. Michael’s College School (SMCS) parents this month, during the first ParenTalks event of this academic year.

So how did it happen? The father of five, retired teacher, principal and administrator, coach, and recent author put that question to the audience of more than 80 current SMCS parents. The answer? 

“Every boy comes to this school with a beauty inside that I call potential.”


Imagine this Venn diagram, he continued, the first circle is parenting, the second is teaching and the third circle --- coaching. “The common point where they meet is potential,” he says.

Subban likens potential to the seat of a three-legged stool.

“We all come into this world with this stool but the legs aren’t attached. We all have a stool,” he says. “Your potential is made up in my mind of three things – the big dream, your belief system and your action. When I meet young people who are struggling or adults who have lost their way in life, I go to that stool and I say too many legs of their stool is missing.”

Subban’s sons P.K. and Malcolm, play with the NHL’s New Jersey Devils and Vegas Golden Knights respectively. Youngest son, Jordan was also drafted into the NHL and is currently playing in Europe. The two eldest children, daughters Taz and Natasha are both teachers.


During the September 2019 presentation of ParenTalks at SMCS, Subban appeared with Dr. Mark Broussenko ‘ 07, MD, a family physician and hospitalist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). Dr. Broussenko answered audience questions about what he sees in his practice on the subject of families, children, and developing potential.

Below are some of the key quotes from both Subban and Dr. Broussenko during this ParenTalks event, which was also livestreamed on YouTube and Facebook:

“To help your son to believe in his potential and then work to fulfill it.
That’s your job as a parent. That’s the way I see it. 
That’s the reason why I walked through the school doors for 30 years.”

“As our family goes, so goes our children” 

“The home is the first school. And their parents are their first teachers.”

What is your son’s dream?

“P.K. had a dream he said, Daddy, I want to play hockey like those guys on television. That was his dream.” 

“When we get to know our youngsters, and we communicate and demonstrate we care, we inspire them.”

“I no longer tell young people to believe in themselves. I tell them to believe in their potential. It was your gift at birth. I really believe that. Everyone was born with it. And when you develop it, it becomes your gift to the world. You can’t tell me differently.”

“When P.K. was 9 or 10 years old --- coach told him: ‘You’ll never make it hockey and you’ll never go as far as I did’. Did the coach’s words stop P.K. from chasing his dream? Well what is stopping you?”

“It’s not what is happening to us sometimes. It’s how we deal with it.”

“If we weren’t able to deal with things the way we were supposed to deal with them, he (P.K.) wouldn’t be where he is today. It’s not because of his ability to skate or shoot the puck or train. Yeah, those things are important.

Sometimes it’s just getting out of the way so he faces adversity and we help him to work through it. It makes him stronger. Adversity is that muscle that needs to strengthened. It didn’t kill him.”

“Karl Subban has learned to clear the way, pave the way, and get out of the way. It’s not my quote. I use it like it’s mine.”

“I never gave my kids the benefit of the doubt.”

Karl Subban's book cover, 'How We Did It'

“Our children need practice in dealing with adversity. And if they don’t get practice they’ll never find their way.”

“Sometimes as you chase your dream and goal, your belief system will be tested. So what are you saying to yourself? My potential lies inside me. I really believe that. That’s what I say to myself at 61. It gives me the ability to reach for something to dream so that I can do more, be more and become more.

“I want to know --- what are your sons saying to themselves when they face adversity?”

“People can underestimate Karl Subban, but they should never ever underestimate his potential. What a powerful mindset to have.”

“What are you doing to be a better parent? What are you doing?

The world today demands it. Old school doesn’t work anymore. There’s a new school and we all need to make sure we’re enrolled in that new school. Just look at all the barriers getting in the way of our children fulfilling their potential. Parental stress, academic stress, social media, there’s a whole range of stuff.”

“One of the most important lessons that I’ve learned as a parent – clear the way, pave the way, and get out of the way. Some of us never learn when to get out of their way. We stay in their way. If a bird never learns to leave the nest, he never learns to fly. We need to get out of their way so that they can grow and develop.”

“The other thing is children have needs and there are things they want. They have needs so that they can grow to be healthy and to be productive. When you give them more the things they want or you want, and less of the things they need, you’re going to have problems. I’ve seen it over and over.”

"‘No’. My children knew what the word meant. I never stopped saying no. They just had to look at me and they knew what I was thinking."

“Spending time with our children is the thing that stays in them. That time you spend with them is the thing that influences them. I never told P.K. to go shoot pucks. Guess what, Mom or Dad went down with him.”

“One of the best motivators is seeing progress. And it grows and it grows and it grows. I never told him I wanted him to be a hockey player.”

“Discipline is shaking their will without breaking their spirit. You have to find a way to do that. It’s a balancing act.”

“You know what I call life’s adversity. I call it Buckley’s. It doesn’t taste good but it’s good for you. You must either look for or create opportunities for them to go through it. It’s a difficult thing for parents to do. We want to protect them from the very thing they need to grow and get better.”

“You know how many times the coach said to P.K., ‘you know what P.K. get ready for the third period. You’re going to be the man’. And he doesn’t leave the bench. It’s either going to break him or make him better.”

“The biggest barrier to success I see right now is internal. It’s about letting them reach their full potential.” (Dr. Broussenko)

The next ParenTalks takes place on Thursday, October 24, 2019. 

Registration is required. RSVP here.