About five months ago, Montreal Canadiens forward Jonathan Drouin made the surprising decision to take a break from hockey.
Now ready to return to action, the Quebecer returned to the reasons and circumstances for putting his career on hold.
After the warm-up period for a game last April against the Calgary Flames, the forward returned to the locker room never to return to the ice. Then, it was announced that Drouin was going to leave the entourage of the team for personal reasons.
« Throughout the year, I had anxiety problems, insomnia problems, » said Drouin in an interview with journalist Renaud Lavoie broadcast Monday evening on TVA Sports. I’ve been living this for several years. But that week was a difficult week. I got sick, I had no energy to play hockey. I still remember that I came out of the warm-up period that day, I had no energy to play hockey, no strength in my body, mentally too.
“That’s really where I decided to take a step back from hockey and take care of myself. I asked for help for the anxiety, for the insomnia. I’m glad I did that.
“At first you don’t know what it is, I had no idea how to deal with it. People would approach me and tell me it’s okay to go get help. I had a hard time accepting these things. (…) It was time for me to take a step back from hockey.”
Watch the full interview in the video above.
Obviously, Drouin had to announce his decision to his head coach, Dominique Ducharme, and to the team’s general manager, Marc Bergevin.
« There were tears, » said Drouin, who also said he had the support of all his teammates. I had played 46 or 48 games. There was a week or two left before the playoffs started. It was hard for me to leave everyone just before the playoffs. That’s why you play hockey. I worked all season to play in the playoffs. But for me, I hit a wall in the sense that it didn’t work for me anymore, hockey. It was time to take a step back and appreciate life.”
And even if Drouin respected his own decision, there were times when it was more complicated.
« I’m really happy with my decision, » he said. There are times that were more difficult than others. (…) I remember the series against Vegas, where I wanted to go back to playing hockey a little. I had made my decision and I stuck with it.”
The great return
With the Canadiens’ training camp just around the corner, Drouin told Ducharme and Bergevin he wanted to stay with the team. And the Quebecer certainly has butterflies in his stomach at the idea of putting on the CH jersey again.
“It’s always fun to come back to the arena where I’m used to being, underlined number 92. It brings back memories, beautiful little moments. (…) If I came back to play hockey, it was with the Canadiens unless I got traded, it’s not in my control. I wanted to stay with the team here, we have a good group. My former junior coach is here. I want to play here for a long time to come.”
« I try not to think about it too much, » Drouin said of the first game of the season. To continue my summer. But for sure that night will be special for me, to come back to play hockey and I’m not worried that the crowd will give me a nice round of applause. It’s going to be a great evening. »
The Quebecer seems particularly excited to return with the team. And if there’s one player he can’t wait to be around, it’s Cole Caufield.
« I haven’t played with Caufield yet, » Drouin said. When he throws, he has a chance to score. You have this feeling. Toffoli has it a little. I can’t name you 15 in the National League. He already has it a little. I watched her during the playoffs, when he’s about to throw, you have a feeling that she’s going to come in. »
“We have a really good team, if you look at the names up front, Anderson, Dvorak, Suzuki, Caufield, Toffoli, the list is so long,” he continued. We have a depth that is rare in the NHL. Even in defense with a guy like Savard. We lose Shea Weber, our leader, but you still replace him with the same kind of defender, who won a cup in Tampa.
Now Drouin approaches the season in a new light. Yes, the Quebecer wants to contribute to the team’s success and improve, but now it’s more than that.
« It’s enjoying the moment, having fun, » said Drouin. For me, it’s getting better every day, that’s the cliché. But there were days when the fun wasn’t there, when there was too much going on in my head. It’s been a few months that nothing is happening in my head, I go to training, I go on the ice. I’m having fun with it all and I can’t wait to get back in the band, to see all the guys together. That’s why we play hockey, it’s to stick together, it’s to live beautiful moments.
« I can’t wait to get back to that. »