Carey Price details debilitating knee injury, grueling rehab as NHL career appears to be over

Though the future Hall of Famer seems to be coming to terms with life after hockey, there’s "a big part" of him that wishes he was still lacing them up.

Carey Price has likely played his last NHL game.

One of the most decorated goaltenders in Montreal Canadiens history and one of the best of the modern era hasn't suited up since the end of the 2021-22 campaign. Since then, Price has missed a full season-plus and counting, with all signs pointing to this being the end of his storied career.

In an feature with Dave Stubbs, Price all but confirmed once more that his hockey-playing days have come to an end despite his desire to continue.

"On a day-to-day level, I feel really good, like I should still be playing," Price said. "But then I’ll go do something and my knee will swell up and that will be a very good reminder that it’s not (going to happen). There’s a big part of me that wishes I was still playing. But every once in a while, it's like, ‘Whoa, yeah, this is why you’re not doing it...

"I miss playing the games. That's probably the biggest thing that I miss about hockey. I always enjoyed the preparation and obviously the competitiveness of the sport."

Price was hampered by various injuries throughout his 15-season NHL career, but this was the one that seemingly did him in.

During the summer of 2021, Price's surgeon discovered an osteochondral defect (cartilage damage/loss) while cleaning up a torn meniscus suffered the season prior — which essentially causes the knee joints to rub together bone-on-bone.

Carey Price seems to be coming to terms with life after hockey. (Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Carey Price seems to be coming to terms with life after hockey. (Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) (Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Though specialists proposed an additional, complex procedure to transplant cartilage from another part of the leg, Price declined and opted to try to grind his way through the 2021-22 campaign while trying to strengthen and rehabilitate his crumbling knee. It didn't go well.

"It was tough ... I’d spent the better part of that year trying to get ready to play again but it just felt like there was something off. Every time I tried a very slow, calculated return, it was like baby steps," Price said.

"We did that like three or four times to return to play. By the time I got all ramped up to get ready for full-on goaltending, the knee would just swell up. It would get so swollen that I couldn't do the things that I know I have to do to play the position right and play it well," the future Hall of Famer added.

After months of setbacks, and with the Canadiens hovering at the bottom of the NHL standings, Price admirably made his return to the crease for what would be the final five games of his career. In fitting fashion, Price stopped 37 of the 39 shots he faced in his final game against the Panthers, showing glimpses of his vintage self.

Through it all, however, Price knew deep down it was likely the end.

"It’s always been my character to just suck it up and get through it," Price said. "I knew I was going to play those (five) games regardless. But in the back of my mind, I also knew this wasn't something that I could maintain for a whole season.

"Every day I’d skate, the knee would swell up. I’d try to flush it out as best I could. I’d take anti-inflammatories but I don’t think they helped that much. I took a couple of shots to try to get through it. Those last games were a struggle."

Price was awarded the 2022 Masterton Trophy for perseverance and dedication to the sport that offseason after his comeback attempt.

Price went on to detail why the injury he's facing is such a tough one for goaltenders — who face extremely unique demands when it comes to movement and generating small-area quickness from the knees — to recover from.

"I know hockey players deal with pain all the time. But you get to a point where the knee swells up so much that you can’t do things properly out there," Price said.

"I think a lot of that has to do with the torque in goaltending. The torquing, contorting … sometimes I feel like if I was a forward, maybe I could get away with a little bit more but it’s just not the case."

As for what he's doing these days, it's all about family and trying to get back to a healthy place, both mentally and physically. Hockey will still be a part of Price's life going forward, although the transition from NHL superstar to fan has been a bit of a slower one.

"I keep track of what the Habs are doing but I hardly ever watch TV. The kids dominate it in the evening," Price said. “But I’ve bought a (TV) sports package for the first time in a long time.

"My primary focus is my family and my health so I'm just really enjoying being present with my kids. It's been a real blessing to watch them grow up. With Liv, I was gone a lot during her infancy. With Millie, too. But with Lincoln, I’ve been there the whole way."