A request for privacy has been largely ignored by the media and armchair critics.
by Al Sciola
On the morning of Wednesday, April 28, the Montreal Canadiens released the following statement on Twitter: “Forward Jonathan Drouin will take an indefinite leave of absence from the team for personal reasons. He was placed on long-term injured reserve by the club. We ask everyone to respect his privacy.”
The Habs announce Jonathan Drouin leave of absenceThe news came as a shock to many fans. But as the love and support rolled in, so did the ugliness, with some fans taking the opportunity to call out the 26-year-old forward’s on-ice performance, with tweets like “Good … Drouin sucks”. Others decided that now would be a good time to compare his stats with Mikhail Sergachev, the prospect that Montreal traded in exchange for Drouin back in 2017, with one fan tweeting “Who would you prefer stud 1st line LD or moody 2nd-3rd line LW?”
While a few ill-intentioned fans should come as no surprise, the media have also not respected Drouin’s request for privacy, pestering teammate Philip Danault and interim-coach Dominique Ducharme with questions regarding the player throughout press conferences. Time and energy that could have otherwise been spent discussing the Wednesday matchup against the division-leading Leafs was instead devoted to something that should just be left alone. But when you’re a talented hockey player in Montreal, this kind of criticism seems to come with the territory. Just ask Patrick Roy or Carey Price, who have gotten their fair share of worship and scorn.
It appears that the Canadiens’ electric atmosphere is both a blessing and a curse for players. If you’re performing well, you will be treated like the city’s saviour. But when you’re not, be sure to steer clear of the public because they will eat you alive. And as a hometown boy, Drouin certainly understands this reality by now, yet he still proudly dons the CH night after night, giving the club his best. That is not to say that his play should never be critiqued — but invasive questions and insults are certainly not the answer, especially at a time like this.
Drouin’s leave of absence, whatever the cause, is not anyone’s business. He has been placed on injured reserve and should be treated as such. He’ll be back when he is good and ready to be. And the public nature of his work should not supersede his right to privacy. A toxic climate benefits no one, and ultimately prevents star players from signing, or deciding to stick around. Hopefully this fanbase can learn before running yet another talented player out of town.
Given the Canadiens’ rich and impressive history, it’s clear that hockey is more than just a sport in Montreal. If anything, it’s a religion. And in that case, maybe it’s time we stop knocking down our saints. ■