MONTREAL – When it comes to playing again, Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price has a long way to go.
There are some important steps along the way as well.
Sidelined by a long-term knee injury, the 35-year-old Price has been on long-term injured reserve and has not stopped coming back. Price said Monday that the focus is on his life and not the potential end of his 15-year run in the NHL.
“We will have to take it step by step. I have no plans to retire at this moment,” he said. “Now, my goal is to be pain-free on a day-to-day basis. I still have issues going up and down the stairs, and carrying my kids up and down the stairs is difficult.
“So my only priority is to get my body to the point where I’m pain-free in my life today and go from there.”
Price helped Montreal to the 2021 Stanley Cup Final – an amazing run that began with victories over two Canadian teams and then the Vegas Golden Knights – and then suffered many setbacks in returning to the game. He underwent knee surgery and sought help from the NHLPA/NHL player assistance program last year for substance abuse.
He won the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy in June, which is awarded to the NHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication.
Price appeared in the last five games of the season as the Canadiens fell from their perch as Stanley Cup finalists. He then had a second opinion about the Pittsburgh knee injury and another suggestion was surgery.
The veteran goaltender said he was “not fond” of the idea and called it “an overbearing approach.”
“Oats is called surgery,” Price said. “In particular, they take a plug of cartilage and bone from the lower area in your knee and place it in the damaged area of the cartilage. It’s quite serious and the success rate is more than 50%, and from a pessimistic perspective it’s like; ‘Come on, maybe 50% that couldn’t work and 30% chance or whatever.’
“It is something, if I had the need to get my life, that maybe I would consider at that point, but now I look after my children and play with them the most today. It is very important to me.”
For now, Price continues to rehabilitate the injury — a long, tedious process that hasn’t gone well yet.
“That’s the real frustrating part, but I’ve talked to a lot of people with this type of injury and it took them a year to start feeling normal,” Price said. “So I’m still holding out hope. Another injection is a possibility, but we’ll have to see. We’re trying to continue to solve the problem, but the surgery is a bit worrying for me.”
There are no more spaces with Price’s name on the Canadiens locker room at the Bell Center. It’s a clear change for Montreal veterans like Brendan Gallagher, who have lived through the highs and lows of the team’s recent history alongside Price.
“It’s one thing to look down and not have him here. He was really the focal point of this team, this organization for so many years,” Gallagher said. “It’s another thing, but I’m so happy that I’ve had the years with him, and he’s made me see many good nights. I’ll never say that to my face, but I owe one or two.”
Price thinks he’s in a “grey area” when he becomes part of the team. He was introduced to a standing ovation at the Bell Center as a non-playing Canadien during the season opener on Oct. 12. The fifth overall pick in the 2005 NHL draft said he has yet to find a balance between staying close to the team. as an injured player and his teammates’ space.
“Any injured guy will tell you it’s kind of weird,” Price said. “You feel like you’re part of the team, but you don’t feel like you’re part of the team.
“I don’t want to be there every day and using the facilities today. These guys come here and work every day. They see the teachers every day and I don’t want to hinder their progress. I’m not going to be a part of the process of that time here so I feel like I’m on the road. I’ll be around when I miss being with the guys “
King is 3-3 and has allowed 18 goals this season.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.