BROSSARD, Que. — Montreal Canadiens forward Zack Kassian has entered a substance abuse program after being involved in a motor vehicle accident, the NHL and the NHL Players Association announced Monday.
Kassian, 24, was placed in “stage two of the substance abuse and behavioral health program (SABH),” they said in statement.
“Under the terms of the joint program, Kassian will be suspended without pay until cleared for on-ice competition by the program administrators.”
Earlier in the day, Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said Kassian showed a “lack of character” when he was involved in the accident that left him with two broken bones.
Kassian broke his nose and left foot in the crash that occurred around 6:30 a.m. ET Sunday in Montreal. Two women with him in the vehicle also suffered non-life threatening injuries.
“I don’t have all the information, but it’s disappointing to say the least,” said Bergevin. “I addressed the whole team this morning.
“We are professional and we have to behave like professionals. You have to be respectful and you’re lucky to be a hockey player. I’m a firm believer in character and that’s really a lack of character and judgement on his part.”
Bergevin was told that Kassian was not driving the vehicle when it went off a road and crashed into a tree.
The Canadiens had played a pre-season game Saturday night in Ottawa and had no practice scheduled on Sunday. No charges were laid against the player.
Bergevin said he hoped it will serve as a wake up call for the 24-year-old, who was acquired in the off-season from Vancouver in exchange for veteran Brandon Prust.
He hadn’t yet spoken to the player and was still gathering details of the incident and was considering whether to suspend Kassian. Then he entered the NHL and NHLPA rehab program.
Forward Dale Weise, who played with Kassian in Vancouver, had talked to him and was just happy to see that no one was badly hurt.
“That’s the main concern here: no one in the car was seriously injured,” said Weise. “I don’t think we should be worrying about who did what wrong.”
It was a first controversy for new Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty.
“Obviously it’s a big mistake on his part, but he’s lucky to walk away and not be too badly hurt,” said Pacioretty. “We have our first game coming up in two days so obviously it’s a very important matter.
“We’re happy he’s OK but we have to stay focused on our game as well.”
In Vancouver, Canucks captain Henrik Sedin offered support to his former teammate.
“You feel bad for the guy,” Sedin said after Vancouver’s skate Monday. “I always liked him as a guy. He had his issues, but he was always good to be around. Hopefully it works out for him … forget about hockey, but just life I think, for him, is the most important thing.”
Kassian had not had a particularly good camp but was a lock to start the season in Montreal. His accident may have spared left winger Jacob de la Rose from being cut, however.
The Canadiens assigned Sven Andrighetto and Charles Hudon to St. John’s of the AHL and placed goalie Dustin Tokarski and defenceman Mark Barberio on waivers.
Tokarski, who played brilliantly for an injured Carey Price in the 2014 playoffs, had a weak camp and lost his job to 25-year-old rookie Michael Condon.
“Condon played very well and deserved a job here,” said Bergevin. “With goalies, it’s more difficult.
“If you have no confidence it’s almost impossible to play. Dustin looked shaky in camp. Can he get it back? For sure. He’s on waivers. I don’t know if he’ll clear or not.”
The Canadiens announced on Sunday that veteran winger Tomas Fleischmann, in camp on a tryout, signed a one-year deal, reportedly at a bargain US$750,000.
“We chose Montreal first,” said Fleischmann. “The reason was it’s a good team, good players and a good chance to win the Stanley Cup.”