Montreal Canadiens’ goaltender Carey Price missed most of the 2021-22 season after voluntarily checking into the league’s Player Assistance Program on October 7th. Price then announced on November 7 that he had entered a residential treatment facility for substance use.
“Over the last few years I have let myself get to a very dark place and I didn’t have the tools to cope with that struggle,” the 34-year-old said in a statement released by the team. “Last month I made the decision to enter a residential treatment facility for substance use. Things had reached a point that I realized I needed to prioritize my health for both myself and for my family. Asking for help when you need it is what we encourage our kids to do. And it was what I needed to do.
“I am working through years of neglecting my own mental health which will take some time to repair; all I can do is take it day by day. With that comes some uncertainty with when I will return to play.”
Price would indeed battle his way back and eventually begin skating with the team again. Unfortunately, Price also had to deal with additional setbacks due to injury, further delaying his return.
Price finally made his return to the NHL Friday night against the New York Islanders, playing in his first game of the 2021-22 season. Price stopped 17 of 19 shots he faced in the 3-0 loss to the Islanders.
“It’s definitely been a trying season, for myself on a personal level and for the team. I didn’t feel quite normal, but pretty close,” Price said after the game.
Price’s family was in attendance for his return on Friday night, including his 1-year-old son Lincoln, who was watching his father play in person for the first time.
“I think he was a little put off by [my] mask and equipment,” Price said jokingly. “It kept me loose. Kept things in perspective.”
On Saturday, Price was the designated backup for the Canadiens’ game against the Capitals. However, the backup designation didn’t stop Capitals players from extending words of encouragement to Price in his return.
Lars Eller, a former Montreal Canadien and teammate of Price’s first skated over during warmups to briefly speak with price.
Everyone’s happy to see Carey! pic.twitter.com/4aSrG05P9b
— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) April 16, 2022
In addition, Alex Ovechkin, who has battled against Price for most of his career, also extended words and a fist bump as the clock expired in Saturday night’s game in Montreal.
Ovechkin 🤜 Price pic.twitter.com/ai9mARlUHs
— TVA Sports (@TVASports) April 17, 2022
Ovechkin called Price a “warrior” after the game. “Very happy for him, he’s back,” said Ovechkin. “Hope everything is going to be fine.”
— HabsLinks (@HabsLinks) April 17, 2022
The gestures and encouraging words sent by the Capitals players to Price is really no surprise, considering the character of the players involved and the courage demonstrated by Price in confronting his personal issues and making them public in order to potentially help others struggling with the same problems.
By Jon Sorensen