(Reuters) -Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price said on Tuesday he had entered the NHL’s player assistance program last month to receive treatment for substance abuse after finding himself in “a very dark place”.
Price, who backstopped Montreal to last season’s Stanley Cup Final where they lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning, missed all of training camp while recovering from off-season knee surgery and entered the treatment facility on Oct. 7.
“Over the last few years I have let myself get to a very dark place and I didn’t have the tools to cope with that struggle,” Price, who returned to his team on Tuesday, said in a statement posted on Instagram.
“Last month I made the decision to enter a residential treatment facility for substance use. Things had reached a point that I realized I needed to prioritize my health for both myself and for my family. Asking for help when you need it is what we encourage our kids to do. And it was what I needed to do.”
No official reason for Price’s decision to enter the player assistance program was disclosed by the team or NHL when the news first broke.
“I am working through years of neglecting my own mental health which will take some time to repair; all I can do is take it day by day. With that comes some uncertainty with when I will return to play,” said Price.
Earlier on Tuesday Price was reunited with his team mates and coaches at the Canadiens’ facility for the first time in a month. He will now begin a multi-step process before he returns to action.
“It was good for me to see him and see how he is doing and for the guys too, to see their team mate back,” Montreal head coach Dominique Ducharme told reporters.
“We have a group of guys that care about each other so having him back, just on the personal side, the guys feel pretty good about seeing him and seeing that he is doing good.”
It could still be some time before Price suits up in a game as Ducharme said that in addition to basic training the goalie will have to complete on-ice work both on his own and then with a goalie coach before rejoining team mates at practice.
“He didn’t go to a training center. The facilities at his disposal probably weren’t like what we have here. But, he found a way to keep in shape every day,” said Ducharme.
“Physically, we’re happy to see where he is, because we didn’t really have any idea what he could do and what he did do. He kept pretty active.”
Ducharme also said it is unlikely Price will travel with the team on their upcoming road trip given all the work he needs to do to get back into game shape.
Montreal lost their first five games of the NHL’s 2021-22 season and are sitting in last place in the Eastern Conference with a 3-10 record.
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Pritha Sarkar)