He’s been the scapegoat of many Habs’ fans since he was acquired by the Canadiens in return for Mikhail Sergachev. Many felt then (and still feel now) that Marc Bergevin gave up too much for him. And it got to the point where the pressure got to Jonathan Drouin so bad, that he had to take some much needed time off, time away from his team, the game, from it all. Supported by his doctors and loved ones, he felt the need to clear his head and look after number one: himself. That wasn’t an easy decision for him as he watched the team battle through adversity to make it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. But it was the right decision.
Upon his return, Jo has received nothing but an overwhelming amount of support from a vast majority of the fanbase, of NHL fans. After his interview with Chantal Machabée on RDS, many felt like finally, a NHL player opened up about mental health. You see, in spite of the great efforts to bring awareness to mental health with programs like “Bell, Let’s Talk” and others, nothing is stronger than having someone everyone knows share their experience. Drouin was that to the Canadiens, to the NHL in general. And that’s a good thing.
A changed man
Watching Drouin’s behaviour on and off the ice, there is no doubt that he’s a changed man. Remember his last meeting with the press when reporters kept pounding him about having only two goals? Remember when he lost it towards them and told them bluntly that there are two columns making up the points in hockey? Soon after, he took his leave of absence. But that was then and now, the smile is back on his face. For a guy who loves the game of hockey as he does, stepping away from it is not easy. Returning to it must feel like returning home after a long trip. It makes you appreciate things more.
So far this season, Drouin has five points in six games. In fact, he has been on five of the Canadiens’ ten goals this year. Further, when watching the game, he is the motor that makes his line tick. He already had great chemistry with Josh Anderson but he has since developed a strong friendship with him. And Christian Dvorak fits in perfectly with the two of them. They have been the most consistent line for the Habs so far in this early season and Drouin’s play is no coincidence.
Be kind, be sensible, be respectful
Now Carey Price is off doing the same thing for himself. While each situation is different, he has his own demons he’s battling right now and he’s learning how to deal with them. He’s learning the coping mechanisms to better handle the immense pressure placed on him for years. And that’s not done overnight.
It would be easy to think, particularly for those who aren’t affected by mental illnesses, that Drouin is out of the woods now, that he’s healthy. That’s not how it works. You don’t “beat” mental health. It’s something that follows you. But it’s something that with medication and applying learned coping mechanisms, someone can learn to deal with on a day to day basis. It’s something Drouin and others battling with mental health will have to face each day. And that’s why it’s important, as fans, as human beings, to continue to be kind. Being over-critical seems to be in too many people’s DNA today, particularly on social media. But we must make a conscious effort to remain kind in our reactions. It will make for a better place, a better world.