Kalman: Rask’s play is for public consumption, his personal life is not

Matt Kalman
November 13, 2018 - 4:12 pm

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Tuukka Rask is back.

The Bruins goaltender practiced with his teammates at Warrior Ice Arena on Tuesday after four days away from the club to attend to a personal matter.

After leaving the ice, Rask got out of his equipment and thanked the Bruins for allowing him to take time off and expressed gratitude to people who sent him supportive messages. Then he continued:

“This is a family and we are a family and we take care of each other when times are tough. With that being said, I have a job, my job is to be a hockey goalie for the Boston Bruins. And I also have another title, that’s a family man, and this was a time that deep inside my heart I needed to take the time to be with my family and make things right so I could be back here and focus on my job. That took three days, I’m back here, I’m back to work and I’m ready to battle with these guys.

Because Rask was away over the weekend and had just one practice before the Bruins left to start their four-game road trip in Colorado on Wednesday, coach Bruce Cassidy anticipated Jaroslav Halak getting the start against the Avalanche. Rask figures to make his next start either Friday in Dallas or Saturday in Glendale, Arizona against the Coyotes.

If Rask plays poorly, you have the right to criticize him, bemoan his existence and call for him to be traded. If he plays well, you can do the same and chalk up a strong performance to luck or an off night by the opponent (as many will).

What you don’t have the right to do is know exactly why he had to leave the team or accuse him of being anything less than the family man he was trying to be by leaving the team to attend to the matter. He’s chosen to not discuss the specifics of his time away, and that’s perfectly fine. The off-ice life of a 31-year-old NHL goaltender isn’t national security and Rask doesn’t have to be transparent with anything that doesn’t involve stopping pucks if he chooses to keep these things to himself.

There’s no doubt Rask has struggled this season. He’s 4-4-0 with a 3.05 goals-against average and .901 save percentage, and he’s ceded playing time to Halak. Given the chance to explain away his poor play by referencing the issue that required his leave of absence, Rask passed.

“It hasn’t affected my job,” he said. “I’m not going to make excuses that I played good games or bad games because of my personal life. It was strictly just the time that I felt that I decided that I needed to take this for my future and my family’s future and I’m happy I did it.”

The Bruins’ goalie situation, like the exploits of every other player at every other position, will play out in plain view for all to debate and criticize. Rask and the rest of the Bruins know that’s what you sign up for when you become a professional athlete. There should never be any question that Rask will try his best to play his best. If he doesn’t live up to his $7 million price tag, then he’ll hear about it and the Bruins will have to make some difficult decisions about their goaltending plans.

No amount of salary, however, requires Rask or any athlete to share with the public all of their personal secrets. What happens away from the rink is their business and if the team believes it’s in the best interest of the player to get away and rectify a situation, then there should be no controversy about any leave of absence.

All the public needs to know is Tuukka Rask is back.