by Dan Adkisson
Montreal goaltender Carey Price has opted to take part in the NHL / National Hockey League Players’ Association assistance program and will be away from the Canadiens for at least 30 days.
The development was announced by the NHL and NHLPA in a joint press release on Thursday afternoon. The statement also noted that there would be no additional comment.
“The National Hockey League (NHL) and the National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) announced on Thursday that goalie Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens will be away from the team while voluntarily taking part in the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program. There will be no further comment,” it reads.
The assistance program, which helps players and their families deal with mental health issues, substance abuse, and the like, was first offered by the aforementioned pair of entities in 1996.
Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin told reporters the player will be away from the organization for a minimum of 30 days, admitting that the news caught him off guard. “It’s hard,” he admitted while fighting back tears.
Bergevin has a nine-year relationship with the player.
Price was recovering from surgery to a torn meniscus and, earlier this week, head coach Dominique Ducharme said he was unlikely to attend any portion of training camp prior to the start of the season due to an unnamed illness that wasn’t COVID-19 related.
“I think people are more and more open to talking about mental health – and not just in hockey, we’re seeing it everywhere,” Ducharme pointed out. “People are more inclined to seek out help, which is very important when we’re going through something difficult.”
The goalie’s wife, Angela, also took to Instagram to talk up the assistance program.
“Part of the privilege of being in the position our family is in, is that we also get a public platform to show how there is and can be a path to light for anyone who is struggling,” she wrote.
“No matter what is on the line, we hope we can communicate the importance of putting your mental health first, not just by saying it, but by showing up and doing the work to get better.
“Carey’s showing up for himself and our family and making the absolute best decision possible for us. I will continue to show up for him and our kids and seek out the support that I may need on any given day. And it’s incredibly important to us to show our kids that asking for help and letting yourself be supported by others is not just OK, but encouraged — anytime, and under any circumstance.”
The Canadiens are all but set to start their season and will kick things off in Toronto on October 13 after reaching the Stanley Cup Final at the end of last season. The NHL picks don’t favor them to win the Cup in 2021/22 at 28/1, with the Colorado Avalanche the outright favorites at 9/2.
The team has welcomed forward Jonathan Drouin back in recent times following a five-month absence that saw him miss their playoff run. Drouin had taken a break to get help for his anxiety and insomnia.
Bergevin referred to mental health as “the elephant in the room,” and praised both players for taking the necessary steps to overcome their issues,
“We don’t say anything and it’s very personal. If there’s other players in the NHL, who have different issues, whatever that is, I think the NHL and the NHLPA are really looking at the well-being of their players, and I commend them to do that.”
“[Jonathan], and Carey and his family, you know, he’s got three kids and his wife, so I think we need to support them, we need to respect their privacy and wish him the best.”
“I believe better days ahead for Carey and his family.”
Jake Allen will take over in goal while Price remains absent.
“We do have leadership in this group and I think they’ll rise to the occasion one more time,” Bergevin added.
Ducharme also spoke to the team’s bond.
“I think we have a family that is knit pretty tightly. They care about each other, and their well-being, and the way the guys play,” the coach insisted. “They don’t care who scores, they don’t care who gets a star. They care about guys having success and [how guys are] playing and so on, but also how they’re doing outside of the rink.
“Everyone is really close. And so obviously, when something like that happens, you can feel it in the group. At the same time, adversity makes you strong, and stronger, and I think we proved that last year. It seems that it’s not going away; it keeps throwing challenges at us. We’ll just answer it.”