Has there been a hotter ticket at the Bell Centre this season?
It’s been 282 days since Carey Price last played an NHL game. It’s been 268 days since the Seattle Kraken passed on selecting him at the expansion draft. It’s been 157 days since Price announced he had treatment for mental health issues related to substance abuse.
And now, he’s back. In front of a full crowd at home, something Price hasn’t experienced since March 2020.
Regardless of the accolades or whether or not he wins a Cup in his career, Price will always be remembered as one of the greats of his generation. For so long, Price has done the heavy lifting for a Habs team that has rarely been in serious contention.
Tonight’s standing ovation is going to be mega.
Fans have supported Price through the thick and thin. Sure, the “let’s trade Carey” crowd pops up every so often, especially when he hasn’t played and carries a $10.5-million cap hit. Price is signed for another four years — don’t expect him to ever leave the only NHL home he ever knows in the near future. And if the 2021 playoffs were his one real chance at tasting glory, he did everything he could to reach those heights.
Regardless of on-ice performance, Price has been a fan favorite throughout much of his career. The No. 5 pick in 2005, Price was Montreal’s goaltender of the future at a time when Jose Theodore’s days were numbered. Theodore had success, winning the elusive Hart Trophy at one point, but as the first big-name starter after Patrick Roy, he never truly delivered on the ultimate goal.
At this point, neither has Price. But Price has spent most of his career playing above and beyond the team in front of him. Ask any Habs player, past or present, that has skated at the Bell Centre over the past 15 years who the most important player on that team has been. When Price has missed time due to injury, it’s easy to notice.
Price made his mark as one of the best goalies throughout his career, not just based on stats, but on how he handled his workload. His demeanor on the ice has always been calm — in fact, he’s one of the goalies that goalie coaches try to model young netminders after. Price typically stays calm in the crease, handles pressure well and is the best player on the ice more often than not. There’s been no shortage of struggles — the 2020-21 season was one of the worst seasons of his career until he magically turned back time. But when he falls down, he always gets back up stronger than ever.
The Bell Centre will be emotional for many reasons. Price’s return comes on the heels of the tragic loss of Mike Bossy, the Islanders superstar who lost his battle with cancer on Friday at the age of 65. If you’re in attendance on Friday, you’ll be witnessing all kinds of emotions.
In Price’s case, we’re talking about a guy who just hasn’t been able to do his job this season. But it’s more than that. This isn’t a normal return. Heck, Price has missed significant time over his career with a lengthy injury list. Substance abuse is a scary thing. Publicly admitting it can’t be easy, either.
The Canadiens fanbase is no stranger to special moments. It’s safe to say there’s been quite a few in the team’s lengthy existence. Saku Koivu’s return from cancer was a moment nobody will soon forget. Jonathan Drouin’s standing ovation after he returned himself at the start of the season was huge. Now, Price is next.
The score won’t matter on Friday, for either team. That’s for sure.