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What you need to know about COVID-19: August 11, 2020
Canadiens goalie Carey Price said he “hit the pause button hard” when the NHL season was shut down on March 12 because of COVID-19.
Price headed to the Kennewick, Wash., home of his wife’s family with daughters Liv, 4, and Millie, 1. Angela Price announced this month that she is pregnant with their third child.
“We didn’t do pretty much anything for really a month,” Price said during a conference call Thursday afternoon that lasted almost 30 minutes. “Like was mentioned, Washington State was hit pretty hard at the beginning of this pandemic, so we locked down pretty hard. We didn’t do a whole lot. We didn’t get out much aside from the occasional walk out of doors. It was a pretty relaxing time.”
But COVID-19 hit close to home when the mother of one of Price’s good friends died after contracting the coronavirus.
“At that point I was like: Wow!” Price said. “Watching it on the news and hearing about it is distant until it affects somebody that you care for.
“Death is inevitable for all of us,” Price added. “Nobody’s escaping that. So definitely hopefully we can learn from this and prepare as well as we can. I have no doubt that we’re going to have another one of these (pandemics) at some point.”
Price played junior hockey for the WHL’s Tri-City Americans in Kennewick and that’s where he met his wife. Price has started skating at the Americans’ rink, but hasn’t faced any shots, and he has been working out in the team’s gym as he prepares for Phase 3 of the NHL’s Return to Play Plan with training camps scheduled to open on July 10.
“I’m starting to make plans,” Price said when asked when he might return to Montreal for training camp. “Like I said earlier in interviews, I would like to have a few more answers to some questions. There’s a lot going on and a lot of things trying to get solved right now. But I would like to come back soon to start preparing as best as I can for a possible return to play.”
Paul Byron, Jonathan Drouin, Laurent Dauphin, Charles Hudon and goalie Michael McNiven skated Thursday at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard as part of Phase 2 of the Return to Play Plan.
Mix of optimism and skepticism
With the unpredictability of COVID-19, there’s still no guarantee the NHL’s planned 24-team post-season will ever get started.
“I have I think about an equal amount of optimism as pessimism,” Price said when asked what he thinks about the playoffs actually taking place. “Like I said earlier, it’s a very unusual situation. Like I said, 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 very well. I have friends’ family members who have passed away from COVID-19 and it’s nothing to balk at. It’s a very serious situation and I don’t think everybody has all the answers. So that’s why I feel that way.
“Obviously, health and safety is the biggest (concern),” he added. “Being able to come to a situation where you don’t have to worry about contracting COVID-19 is huge. Being able to bubble the players and feel safe in your work environment is going to be probably the most paramount.”
Price said he wouldn’t feel comfortable having an NHLPA vote right now about whether to play.
“There’s still a lot of questions that need to be answered,” he said. “We have obviously a unique situation right now. The NHL and the NHLPA are trying to make the best of a very difficult situation. So moving forward I’d like to play, but we have a lot of questions that need to be answered and a lot of scenarios that need to be covered before I can vote yea or nea.”
Price also said he would respect any teammate or coach who wouldn’t be comfortable playing and would want to opt out.
“Absolutely,” he said. “There’s no question in my mind that anybody would think less of anybody for bowing out. Like I said, it’s a situation that’s above hockey. There’s a lot of things, a lot of variables involved …. you know, health commission. (If) any teammate or anybody else in our organization feels uncomfortable with it I would have nothing but respect for that person. It’s a very difficult decision to make.”
Price said that if the post-season does happen his wife and daughters will stay in Kennewick and not join him in the hub city, wherever that might be.
“It would be difficult to leave our families, no question,” he said. “It’s definitely a commitment to go long-term without seeing your children, especially for me at this stage of their lives where they’re growing so quickly. Those are sacrifices that we have to bear in mind when we make our decision.”
Julien ‘firmly intends’ to be behind bench
The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun asked the Canadiens’ Claude Julien, who is 60, and some other NHL coaches around that age how safe they will feel standing behind the bench during the post-season games.
“No doubt you’re thinking of the different options you may have, whether it’s wearing a mask, to what extent you are going to deal with your team and players (meaning distancing),” Julien told LeBrun via text message this week. “I know it may be a challenge behind the bench more than anywhere else but my thinking is that I need to be ready to adjust and have options when that time comes depending on where we are at with COVID and our hockey circumstance.
“That also means pulling myself out if I feel a real danger,” Julien added. “My family and life are more important than my job at that point.’’
Julien also told LeBrun he knows the NHL is planning on taking every precaution.
On Thursday, the Canadiens made it clear that Julien “firmly intends” to be behind the bench and that he “has full confidence in the league’s ability to set in place the security measures necessary to ensure the safety of all.”
Penguins an ‘enormous challenge’
If the post-season does get started, the Canadiens will play Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins in a best-of-five first-round series. The Penguins won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017.
“Trying to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins is an enormous challenge,” Price said. “Winning a Stanley Cup is an enormous challenge. I don’t think anybody knows this any better than the Pittsburgh Penguins, so I have no doubt that me and the rest of my teammates are looking forward to a challenge.”
The Canadiens had a 1-1-1 record against the Penguins during the regular season. The Canadiens won 4-1 in Pittsburgh on Dec. 10 and lost both games in Montreal, 3-2 in overtime on Jan. 4 and 4-1 on Feb. 14.
“I’ve watched our games (against the Penguins) from this season,” Price said. “When we return for training camp we’re still going to have three weeks of opportunity to pick through and sift through everything. So right now I’m just trying to focus on my time with my kids and trying to prepare my body as well as I can for a possible return to play.”
When asked about the fact not many of his teammates have NHL playoff experience, Price said:
“Well, I’m sure most of my teammates have played playoff hockey in some form or another. You don’t get to the NHL very often without having won something at some level and I think a lot of our players can draw off of those types of experiences and look to the players like me, Shea (Weber) and Gally (Brendan Gallagher) for leadership in those types of intensive situations.”
A 25th Stanley Cup?
The Canadiens will be huge underdogs going into the post-season and Price was asked why he believes the team can win its 25th Stanley Cup and the first since 1993, when Price was 5 years old.
“Well, I would say that we’re fresh,” he said. “We see at the start of every season how it’s kind of chaos. So I feel that we’re turning right back into a playoff format right off the get-go … it’s going to be chaotic. So I think that our preparation of the next month for a possible return will be paramount and it’s just an old adage anything can happen but, hey, it’s a tried-and-true answer.
“I know we’re a pretty under-rated team, we’re a very streaky team,” Price added. “We’ve proven that we can get really hot and that’s what it’s all about in the playoffs.”
Price was also asked about president/owner Geoff Molson’s comments recently that the Canadiens are on the right track to become a contending team.
“It’s always a work in progress,” Price said. “Every year you show up to training camp to make the playoffs, win the Stanley Cup. Every year we make moves to attain that goal.
“We didn’t have a great season. We definitely didn’t improve from the previous season, which we thought we had a great opportunity to make the playoffs. I think we need to play better. We need to play to that same calibre we did the previous season. I think we had a little bit of a step back, but I think if we pull our socks up we can definitely move back to where we were.”
What might have been
Price was asked if he ever thinks back to the 2014 Eastern Conference final when New York Rangers forward Chris Kreider crashed into him in the crease in Game 1 and knocked him out of the series. The Rangers went on to win the series in six games with Dustin Tokarski in goal for the Canadiens.
“There’s lots of things in my life that I wish I could have redone,” Price said. “But yeah, for sure, it is. No question about it. It was a great opportunity. I actually just finished watching that (second round) Boston series and yeah, for sure, absolutely it’s something that I feel slipped away. But you never know what the future holds and at that time you feel like you have plenty of opportunities on hand.
“I’ve heard lots of players, lots of veteran players, in meetings leading up to playoffs talking about how opportunities are sometimes few and far between. Like I said earlier, I will take every opportunity I get handed to me.”
The Canadiens — and Price — will get handed another opportunity if this post-season ever gets started.
The HI/O Show is back!
I joined Jess Rusnak of CBC DayBreak, former Canadiens defenceman Rick Green and comedian/host Adam Susser for this new episode of the HI/O Show that was taped this week remotely from our homes.
Photo of the Day — Part 1
Congratulations to Caley Chelios and her husband on the birth of their daughter, who is a grandchild for former Canadiens defenceman Chris Chelios and his wife. Caley works for the Tampa Bay Lightning as a reporter and radio analyst.
Photo of the Day — Part 2
Former Canadiens centre Nathan Thompson already has his playoff beard ready with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Video of the Day
I wonder if Tiger Woods can do this?
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