Montreal Canadiens star Carey Price entering player assistance program

Canadiens goaltender Carey Price has voluntarily entered the NHL/NHL Players’ Association joint player assistance program, a stunning announcement Thursday less than a week before start of the season and just three months after he backstopped Montreal to the Stanley Cup final.

The league and players’ union said the 34-year-old Price will be away from the team while he takes part in the program. The union did not specify why he entered the program and said it would not provide further comment.

Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said Price would be in the program for at least 30 days.

The NHL and NHLPA started the player assistance program in 1996, with players able to call a confidential phone line. The jointly funded group assists players and their families with mental health, substance abuse and other matters. Counselors are available in each NHL city.

The news comes a day after Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme said it would be unlikely that the would be ready for the start of the season as he recovered from an unspecified illness. Price is also recovering from offseason surgery to repair a torn meniscus.

Angela Price, the goaltender’s wife, posted a message on Instagram after the announcement.

“Part of the privilege of being in the position our family is in, is that we also get a public platform to show how there is and can be a path to light for anyone who is struggling. No matter what is on the line, we hope we can communicate the importance of putting your mental health first not just by saying it, but by showing up and doing the work to get better,” she wrote.

“Carey’s showing up for himself and our family and making the absolute best decision possible for us. I will continue to show up for him and our kids and seek out the support I may need on any given day.”

Price was extraordinary in leading the Canadiens on an unexpected run to the final over the summer, where they lost to Tampa Bay in five games. He won the Hart Trophy as league’s Most Valuable Player and Vezina Trophy as top goaltender in 2015.

Montreal initially expected Price to be ready for the start of camp. Instead, the Canadiens are expected to start the season with Jake Allen and Samuel Montembeault as their goaltending tandem.

The Canadiens open the season on 13 October at archrival Toronto, the team Price and Montreal beat in the first round of the playoffs after falling behind 3-1 in the series.