The Montreal Canadiens found a new way to lose a hockey game last night. The Habs did earn their first loser point of the season but Adrian Kempe’s OT winner handed them their 11th defeat through 14 games.
Fans in the Bell Centre witnessed one of the more entertaining games this season. Jake Evans’ highlight reel equalizer in the third period. Before that, Alexander Romanov’s crunching hit on Rasmus Kupari swung the momentum in the Montreal Canadiens favour and earned him high praise from Ben Chiarot post-game.
But the most compelling things the Habs had to say had nothing to do with what happened on the ice.
Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price released a statement via Instagram just over two hours until puck drop detailing the reason why he checked into the NHL/NHLPA’s joint player assistance program. The Habs star goaltender revealed that substance abuse was the reason why he entered the program in early October.
“It’s incredible,” said Chiarot. “A leader on our team but to be honest the hockey part you don’t even care about. You care about your friend and his family and just the well-being of him and his family. Definitely a brave man to come out and face his fears the way that he did. That’s not easy for guys to do and he did it head on. I’m proud to call him a friend.”
Tyler Toffoli admitted that Price spoke to his teammates in Brossard earlier this morning before making his statement public. He has been at the team’s practice complex the last couple of days as he begins the team’s program to get him back up to speed both physically and mentally.
“Talking with Pricer he knows that he has our support,” said Toffoli. “What he did and the calibre of the player and person that he is, for him to have the courage to step up and not only go away to seek the help but come back and talk to everybody and release a statement like that it’s extremely powerful. There’s a reason why he attracts good people and everybody wants to be around him because he’s a great human being. We all love him and support him deeply.”
Head coach Dominique Ducharme said earlier today that the team won’t set a timeline for when they can expect Price to return. Ducharme said post-game that Price’s statement doesn’t alter the plan the club has for his return. But they are approaching it with an abundance of caution.
“It takes courage to face his situation,” Ducharme told reporters in French. “The first thing you have to do individually to seek help is to have the courage to admit that you need it. He has the support of everyone.”
Ducharme also admitted it’s as simple as Price’s teammates just being themselves around him that will make the difference in the short and long-term.
“It’s the little things,” the Habs head coach continued in French. “At the same time that there are things that the person controls, it’s the support around him. That’s often us, we’re basically a second family. We spend a lot of time together at the rink and on the road. It’s just to support him in small ways. It’s not one thing in particular, there isn’t one way (to show support). But I think each individual, with their personality and the connection that they have, the closeness they have with him as a group (will help). We know what he’s facing, what he’s going through and it’s up to us to support him.”
Price’s return won’t be measured in wins and losses for the foreseeable future. He is in the beginning phase of his recovery and now reporters, fans and his teammates know it. Their support will mean the world to him. And maybe making sure their leader is progressing both personally and professionally will be a galvanizing moment for his teammates on the ice.