Canadiens’ Price casts light on players’ stress and life in spotlight

“He always seemed like himself,” Habs centre Nick Suzuki says about goalie’s personal struggles. “Some things you don’t see.”

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New Canadiens captain Nick Suzuki says he wasn’t aware of what the issue was with Carey Price last October when the goalie entered the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program.

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“When Carey left the team, we didn’t really know what was going on,” Suzuki said after the Canadiens’ morning skate Tuesday at the Bell Centre. “I didn’t really know what was going on. I don’t know too much (now) but, when he was around us, he always seemed like himself. I think he’s been sober for a bit now, so it’s good to see.

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“Some things you don’t see,” Suzuki added. “I think he just wanted to deal with it and I think he’s doing a lot better.”

In an article by Arpon Basu published on The Athletic website Monday morning, Price revealed that his problem was with alcohol.

Price told Basu that after the Canadiens lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2021 Stanley Cup final, coming so close to his biggest goal, and facing knee surgery near the end of his career that he was not a happy person.

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“I wasn’t being a good father,” Price said. “I was drinking a lot. I just got to a point where I was like, I’m not even having fun doing this. Like, what am I doing? I felt like I was getting to a point in my life where I had to make a decision. And substance abuse has been a very big issue in First Nations communities. I’ve had friends and family that have passed away from it. So, I could have done this privately. Nobody ever would have known about it. But at the end of the day, I was like, if I’m dealing with it, if I can lead by example and show that it’s OK to reach out for help. … Maybe I could have gone out and stopped on my own. Yeah, maybe. But … I wanted to be able to show it’s OK to ask for help.”

Price grew up in Anahim Lake, B.C., and his mother, Lynda, was chief of the Ulkatcho First Nation.

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Price said problems with alcohol is something he has seen in sports and high-stress positions, adding there’s a lot of pressure on athletes today with social media and media attention, noting: “You’re always under the microscope.”

Canadiens forward Jonathan Drouin left the Canadiens with 12 games remaining in the 2020-21 regular season and missed the team’s entire run to the Stanley Cup final while dealing with insomnia problems related to his anxiety that would see him go three days at times without sleeping.

Canadiens head coach Martin St. Louis said Monday that there is more support in society and more discussion for people having problems like Price did. He added that the Canadiens are like a family and they are ready to help players with whatever problems they might be having and that his door is always open for anything players want to talk about.

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Price held a news conference Monday during which he answered questions from the media for more than 20 minutes and said it would basically take a miracle for him to be able to play again because of his knee injury.

“I haven’t listened to his presser yesterday,” St. Louis said. “It’s something I want to do today. Yesterday just got too busy. I’ve seen Carey a few times this year. He seems in a good place.”

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