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Carey Price is many things to many people: phenomenal goaltender; dreaded opponent; superstar in a hockey-crazed market; entertainer of thousands, if not millions of fans; face of one of the sport’s most decorated franchises.

But first and foremost, Price is a human being. And news that he voluntarily entered the NHL’s player assistance program is a human being story, not a hockey story.

Of course, it’s impossible not to analyze the hockey repercussions of Price’s decision. That’s how it goes in Montreal, where they adore Price as a leader and cornerstone of the Canadiens. But that train of thought should quickly be pushed aside in favor of a focus on Price’s bravery.

And it is true bravery to do what Price is doing. We’re unaware of the specifics of his problem, but that’s fine. In seeking help, the point Price has made is that you don’t need to wait until your demons overcome you, and you have a public meltdown that reveals your fragile state of mind. You can, and should, try taking control of your situation by stepping forward and asking for help.

It’s impossible for anyone but Price to completely understand what he’s gone through in his 14-year NHL career. But we should all have empathy for him. Empathy is what he needs as he attempts to be well-enough again to play the game. Empathy is what he should get if he’s unable to continue his playing days. The 34-year-old has nothing to prove to anyone anymore. He’s won a Hart Trophy, recognizing him as the key cog to the Habs. He’s won a Vezina Trophy, acknowledging his dominance between the pipes. He’s led Montreal to the Stanley Cup Final last season, even after his body had been beaten up. When the games really counted, Price shone like a diamond: he finished the post-season with a 2.28 goals-again-average and a .924 save percentage. He was the Canadiens’ most valuable player, and not by a thin margin.

But again, none of these stats or laurels mean anything on a day like today. Carey Price, the man, is what the focus must be on. It’s impossible for any of us to know the pressures of playing in Montreal, but it surely isn’t all poops and giggles. Mentally, you can be worn down until you feel empty or damaged. Any of us can. And this news about Price is simply the story of a famous person trying to make it through troubles almost everyone goes through – or knows someone who has.

Empathy. We don’t know the details, and we don’t have to. All we should (hopefully) know one day is that he’s healthy from head to toe, and he’s ready to return to action. If he wants to keep the spotlight away from him and retire to a quiet life, he’s earned that right. If hockey has become too much for him, he deserves the right to step away from it. He’ll have fans forever, because of how he conducted himself over the years. He’s been generous with his money, building “The Carey And Angela Price Foundation” into a terrific charity. He’s proud of his indigenous heritage, and he and his wife have done tremendous humanitarian work in First Nations areas. Ultimately, what does he deserve for leading such a giving, responsible life?

Empathy. Price’s health, mentally and physically, is the only thing that really matters. He can take as long as he needs to get better. And his fans can give back to Price by giving him space. Nobody needs to pry into his day-to-day life. There’s only one thing that’s a gift we can send to him.

Empathy. That’s all that’s needed from us. Imagine what you’d do if you had a major life problem. Imagine how hard it must be to publicly reveal your issues. Think of the weight on your shoulders, and how much better you’d feel once you threw if off and asked for help.

So, best wishes go out to Price and his family. We should let him know the issue(s) he has can’t take away from the person he is. If you’re a true fan of his, you’ll be rooting for better days for him. That’s what he deserves. On the importance meter, hockey is a distant second to life outside of hockey. The most important save Price is making is saving his life away from the game. We all ought to be behind him, quietly but fervently, as he does.


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