Jack Todd: Canadiens coach St. Louis deserves privacy and all the time he needs

St. Louis has taken an indefinite leave of absence for family reasons. If he needs 10 days, so be it. If he needs 10 months, he should have it.

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As my mentor Michael Farber put it, “sometimes life gets in the way.”

Real life. Far from the arena, where the seven- or eight-figure salaries don’t matter, where humans live and breathe, collide and love and hope, and marry and have children, get divorced, get rich, go bankrupt, get sick and die.

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Or as Frankie Corrado put it, “athletes are a little bit human too.”

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As are coaches.

As are we all. Human, subject to the same stresses, magnified many times by the microscope focused on any individual who dares coach the Canadiens in a city where the passion for the team is akin to madness.

Martin St. Louis, the Hall of Famer who has become an outstanding hockey coach, motivator and communicator, has taken an indefinite leave of absence for family reasons.

David Savard unfortunately let slip that it involves one of St. Louis’s three sons. There’s no getting that one back and Savard feels bad enough without piling on.

As it happens, I’m also the father of three sons. I once stayed home from a major international event because one of them needed me. Dashing around the world filing stories on the Olympic Games and the World Cup is a dream job but sometimes, life gets in the way.

In the constant tug of war between professional and personal lives in the world of professional sport, it was not always easy to put family first. There was a time not so long ago when it would have been seen as weakness for a coach or a professional athlete to take time to deal with a family issue.

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Mercifully, that has changed. Jonathan Drouin took time when he needed it. Carey Price took time when he needed it. Both were fully supported by the Canadiens organization and most fans, as St. Louis will be.

There is no acceptable alternative. Family first. If you don’t believe that, don’t have a family. If St. Louis needs 10 days, so be it. If he needs 10 months, he should have it. And if some narrow-minded click hunters complain that the unilingual but fully qualified Trevor Letowski is coaching the team in the interim they need to shut it, because to make it an issue is to put unneeded pressure on the organization and St. Louis himself.

Anyone who reads this column knows that I respect and admire St. Louis extravagantly. He’s the perfect coach for this team. Who else would you have coaching young players like Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield, Juraj Slafkovsky, Alex Newhook, Joshua Roy, Samuel Montembeault or Kirby Dach?

As a father, I have made countless mistakes. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in nearly 50 years of parenting, it’s this: Be there. Be present. Be a constant part of their young lives. They’ll hate you for it at times and at times you will need to have the common sense to back off and let them be — but be there.

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Truth is, parenting is the toughest job in the world. You can’t mail it in. I learned the hard way that phone calls from Atlanta, Sydney, Paris and Athens sometimes aren’t enough. Even as we sit on the couch munching cheese doodles, to the young ones we are the still point in a turning world.

When the news that St. Louis was taking a leave broke Saturday, Hockey Night in Canada initially ignored it during its opening segment. Fans of rival teams, most notably the Leafs, decided this would be the perfect time to do a little vicious trolling on social media.

It is not. At a time like this, the entire hockey world needs to pull together, wish St. Louis and his family all the best — and leave them alone.

Lies, rumours &&&& vicious innuendo: That swan dive Nazem Kadri performed after he had already taken a tripping penalty against the Habs Saturday night was worth another two minutes for embellishing. Kadri had barely stepped on NHL ice when he cross-checked Andrei Markov in the back of the head. Fourteen years in the league and he’s still a clown. …

The Canadiens bench should have challenged the Calgary goal scored after Jonathan Huberdeau bulled his way into the crease and clearly bumped Cayden Primeau. Add the goal Kadri scored after Juraj Slafkovsky was whistled for goaltender interference after he was pushed into the goalie and that’s two goals off the final tally. Not the reason the Habs lost, but it would be nice to get things right. …

Allowing the Chicago Fire to storm back after Raheem Edwards drew a much-deserved red card in the 82nd minute wasn’t their finest hour, but CF Montréal has already proven it can do one thing it couldn’t do last season — score goals.

Heroes: Iga Swiatek, Maria Sakkari, Carlos Alcaraz, Lysianne Proulx, William Dandjinou, Cole Caufield, Mike Matheson, Artturi Lehkonen, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Trevor Letowski, David Savard &&&& last but not least, Martin St. Louis.

Zeros: Nazem Kadri, Raheem Edwards, Trevor Bauer, Steve Garvey, Novak Djokovic, offside reviews, the puck over the glass rule, Sheldon Keefe, Claude Brochu, David Samson &&&& last but not least, Jeffrey Loria.

Now and forever.

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