“While support for Price has been largely positive during his absence, some people feel so entitled as to assume that he owes us an explanation.”
Man, this city can be a toxic place when it comes to hockey. On Friday, it was announced that Carey Price will be returning to the Montreal Canadiens on Monday, Nov. 8. His return will largely be to develop a timeline for when he’ll be able to step back onto the ice after undergoing offseason knee surgery. He’ll also be completing his month-long stint with the NHL Players’ Assistance Program for mental health reasons, the specifics of which are unknown. In keeping with the program’s after-care process, he will not be making any public comments upon his return, as his doctors haven’t yet given him the green light to do so.
Without Price, the Habs have utterly floundered out of the gate with a record of 3–10–0 after the first 13 games of the season — good for the bottom of the Atlantic Division and third-last in the NHL, which puts the Habs right in the thick of the Shane Wright sweepstakes. A combination of slow starts from their best players, a badly constructed defence corps and a limp-dick power play have all contributed in varying ways to the team’s horrific performances to date.
Additionally, Carey Price has been a part of the Canadiens organization for the better part of two decades, and has elevated mediocre-to-bad teams in front of him for many of those years with some truly superhuman performances in net. Though he remains a beloved figure in this city, he’s also endured more than his share of vitriol whenever he’s performed poorly — particularly since he eats up $10.5-million of the team’s salary cap.
While support for Price has been largely positive during his absence, some fans and at least one reporter on social media feel so entitled as to assume that he owes us some sort of explanation, since he’s such an important player and boasts a gigantic yearly salary to the detriment of the team’s roster budget, all while the Habs are playing extremely poorly without him.
He doesn’t owe any of us anything. Neither did Jonathan Drouin before he eventually chose to tell his story in an interview with Chantal Machabée of RDS. Carey Price is his own human being, with his own set of emotions and boundaries, both of which he is fully entitled to.
With the Habs and their players, there seems to be a real sense of arrogance and entitlement among much of the fanbase when they aren’t winning hockey games. Hockey players are not robots you can program to your liking, unless you actually coach them. They are real people with real feelings who also happen to be very good at their chosen sport.
To treat them otherwise isn’t just dehumanizing and lacking in empathy, it also insinuates that their mental well-being is irrelevant and unimportant compared to their proficiencies on the ice. This brings to mind the “shut up and dribble” mentality parroted by the Laura Ingrahams of the world (even if that debacle was about LeBron James and Kevin Durant publicly criticizing then-President Trump).
This has gone beyond hockey itself, for that matter, on several occasions this year. Naomi Osaka famously pulled out of the French Open back in May to focus on her mental health, which resulted in support and backlash from fans and media alike (looking at you, Piers Morgan). A month prior, Manchester United’s Jesse Lingard opened up about his own struggles with mental health, and how he turned to alcohol following relentless abuse online from United fans.
Confusingly, some still feel compelled to label him as a scapegoat for the team’s on-ice failures — when he’s not even playing — after having just led the team through an exhilarating run to the Stanley Cup Final. People may also point to his status as the team’s best player, as well as his high AAV, for why he owes it to the public to be an open book about his personal struggles — something that arguably perpetuates the “they’re millionaires, they’ll be fine, they can tough it out” myth surrounding mental health in sports.
It takes a special kind of mental toughness to handle playing hockey in Montreal when things aren’t going well. And when your name is Carey Price, the resulting pressure from fans and media can increase tenfold. It’s on both of those groups of people to set a healthier, more positive example for players when push comes to shove, to help make it a place they want to play in long-term. Watching sports as a fan hasn’t shown itself to be very beneficial for mental health, either, with multiple studies having shown increases in domestic violence cases after sports teams lose (and even after they win).
A player’s personal well-being is also bigger and more important than the sport itself, and it’s high time that we stopped prioritizing winning hockey games over literally anything else in life — which is exactly what the Chicago Blackhawks did when Kyle Beach reported his harrowing account of sexual abuse at the hands of the team’s video coach while Beach was a prospect in the organization.
This type of attitude also serves as proof of why the conversation surrounding mental health de-stigmatization is so necessary, and particularly during a global pandemic. For every bit of progress the conversation makes, there are always some who don’t seem to care about it, understand it or value its importance.
Mental health is also not something you can flick on and off like a light switch. As someone who has experienced depression and anxiety on many occasions in life (both of which have been exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic), it is vital that you seek help and support however you can. This can include therapy, crisis hotlines, confiding in loved ones, journaling, exercise — whichever method works best for you.
Though we don’t know the exact reasons for Carey Price’s mental health issues, his stint in the Players’ Assistance Program shows he’s willing to take charge of his well-being, all while showing his fans that it’s okay not to be okay. Seeking help is a statement of intent for improving your mental health, rather than ruminating and letting your feelings eat away at you. You’re also fully within your rights to be as public or as private as you want about what caused you to seek help in the first place. Point finale.
It’s Carey Price’s prerogative to publicly share whatever he wishes about his personal issues whenever he’s ready to do so. In the meantime, please respect both his wishes and his privacy. ■
If you or someone you know is struggling or in distress, call Info-Social at 811 to be directly transferred to a social worker. You can also call Wellness Together Canada at 1-866-585-0445 to speak with a counsellor free of charge, or text WELLNESS to 741741.