Carey Price needs more information before deciding where he stands.
The Montreal Canadiens goalie was asked on a conference call with reporters Thursday — his first media availability since COVID-19 brought much of the sports world to a screeching hall in mid-March — which way he’d lean in a players’ vote to restart the 2019-20 season this summer.
At this point, Price doesn’t know.
“I probably wouldn’t be comfortable voting at this particular time,” said the 32-year-old from Anahim Lake, B.C. “There’s still a lot of questions that need to be answered. We have obviously a unique situation right now. The NHL and the NHLPA are trying to make the best of a very difficult situation.”
The league and the players’ union continue to negotiate a grocery list of details related to the plan to resume the pandemic-hit campaign — among them health and safety concerns, and where the two hub cities will be located — all while attempting to tie everything together with a possible extension to the current collective bargaining agreement.
The return-to-play plan calls for a 24-team format, including a qualifying round to determine the 16 post-season seeds that would see Montreal take on the Pittsburgh Penguins in a best-of-five series. If everything moves forward without hiccups, training camps are scheduled to open July 10, with the resumption of the campaign either later next month or in early August.
The Canadiens, who sat 24th in the NHL and were all but eliminated from playoff contention at the time of the pause, would get a second life under the blueprint.
Price, however, isn’t getting ahead of himself.
“Moving forward I’d like to play,” he said. “But we have a lot of questions that need to be answered and a lot of scenarios that need to be covered before I could vote yay or nay.”
Price travelled with his wife and two kids to Kennewick, Wash., after the NHL went on hiatus. He’s been able to work out at the local Western Hockey League team’s facility, but hasn’t faced any shots since the lockdown.
The fifth pick in the 2005 NHL draft is also only “starting to make plans” about his eventual return to Montreal, even though as the rules stand, he would have to quarantine for 14 days after arriving in Canada.
“I would like to have a few more answers to some questions,” Price said. “There’s a lot going on and a lot of things trying to get solved.
“I would like to come back soon to start preparing as best as I can for a possible return to play.”
It’s no secret that a segment of NHL players are concerned about the risks of playing in the middle of a pandemic, especially with the spiking infection numbers in large parts of the United States.
Canadiens head coach Claude Julien, who’s 60 years old, said Thursday in a statement released by the team he has confidence in the league’s ability to keep everyone safe.
Price said even inside a bubble scenario where players — in theory at lower risk because of their age — and staff would be cut off from the general public, anyone who’s worried for health reasons should stay away without fear of repercussions.
“There’s no question in my mind that (no one) would think less of anybody for bowing out,” said the former Vezina and Hart Trophy winner. “It’s a situation that’s above hockey. There’s a lot of things, a lot of variables involved.
“If any teammate or anybody else in our organization feels uncomfortable with it, I would have nothing but respect for that person.”
Sadly, Price has a personal connection to the novel coronavirus.
“I have had a good friend of mine’s mother pass away from COVID-19,” he said. “Watching it on the news and hearing about it is distanced until it affects somebody that you care for.”
And when it comes to resuming hockey this summer, the soft-spoken Price remains on the fence.
“I have about an equal amount of optimism and pessimism,” he said. “It’s a very unusual situation. I want the opportunity to be able to play for a Stanley Cup, but I want to be able to continue living life normally. A lot of cases haven’t panned out for a lot of people.
“It’s nothing to balk at. It’s a very serious situation.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 25, 2020.
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