In the wake of Carey Price‘s decision to step away from hockey and seek assistance, there has been widespread support for the star goalie of the Montreal Canadiens — and marks what appears to be a shift in addressing mental health in the world of professional and amateur sports.
Dr. Gordon Bloom, a professor of sports psychology at McGill University, said it is a change from the old narrative that athletes must “always suck it up, be a tough guy” even when they need help or don’t feel well.
“I think it’s going to send a message that will reverberate from the NHL all the way down to minor hockey,” he told Global News.
Price is voluntarily entering the NHL’s player assistance program, though few details were provided about what was behind the decision. The 34-year-old has not spoken publicly since the news was announced, but his wife penned a supportive message, citing mental health as the reason for Price’s temporary absence from the net.
Habs’ general manager Marc Bergevin told reporters Thursday he was caught off guard, but he encouraged others to seek aid when necessary. “Better days are ahead for Carey,” he added.
After teammate Jonathan Drouin took time away last season and now with Price seeking assistance, Bloom compared the evolving perspectives around mental health to how conversations changed about concussions in the NHL.
The fact that sports leagues and governing bodies now also offer assistance programs has made it easier for athletes to be comfortable revealing they are experiencing something that needs to be addressed, Bloom explained.
“In the past, they were afraid to say it — because of the stigma, the negative stigma that was associated with saying you’re struggling, you’re not tough, your mental health is weak,” Bloom said.
“We’re really trying to change that narrative and we’re well on our way.”
Price has been known for his stoic demeanor over his long career with the Habs. He has racked up Vezina, Jennings, Ted Lindsay and Hart Memorial trophies. He has also helped carry Canada to Olympic gold.
It’s a positive step forward in discussing mental health if Price — who is considered one of the best goaltenders in modern-day hockey — is able to hit pause, said Bloom.
“It doesn’t come much bigger, more pressure-packed than that and he’s saying ‘I need to step away,'” Bloom said.
‘We just wish him the best’
Habs players only had messages of support for Price amid his sudden departure.
“Our families are close and it’s tough when you really judge a book by its cover,” said defencemen Jeff Petry.
“He’s a guy that comes in every day and you think everything’s OK and it’s unfortunate that it got to a point. We just wish him the best.”
Goaltender Jake Allen, who will likely step in for Price as the new season gets underway, said he already reached out to Price directly.
The team is supportive of “Carey Price, the human being,” Allan told reporters after a pre-season game against Ottawa Senators.
“The hockey player can wait as long as it takes to get whatever he needs to get his feet back under him,” Allan said. “That’s all we’re caring about in this locker room.”
“Hockey is secondary in this aspect.”
Price’s decision has made waves in the NHL too, with Toronto Maple Leafs captain John Tavares describing him as a “world-class netminder” and saying he wishes Price nothing but the best.
Former goalie Corey Hirsch also chimed in, saying he was “extremely proud” of Price.
“I hope more players feel safer to get help,” Hirsch wrote on Twitter. “I thank everyone on here that is showing Carey love and support. That’s how we will create change.”
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 9-1-1 for immediate help.
Crisis Services Canada’s toll-free helpline provides 24-7 support at 1-833-456-4566. Residents of Quebec can call 1-866-277-3553.
—With files from Global News’ Dan Spector and The Canadian Press