Montreal Canadiens' Carey Price wants more men to take paternity leave. Here's why it matters so much

Plus, the adorable story of his daughter’s first time on the ice and what he really wants for Father’s Day this year.

Plus, the adorable story of his daughter’s first time on the ice and what he really wants for Father’s Day

Carey Price with his daughter Liv (Photo credit: Mari Photographie)

Hearing Carey Price tell the story of the first time his daughter stepped foot on the ice feels like jumping into a great Canadian fairytale. The Montreal Canadiens' goaltender had just endured a 3-nothing shut out at the hands of the Ottawa Senators at the NHL 100 Classic, but the loss was undoubtedly eclipsed by the magic that followed. "It was snowing that day," he recalls, "it was a pretty cool experience."

Of course, being just days before Christmas, the weather was well below freezing in the nation's capital. Hundreds of bright white lights pierced the night sky, shining over the gigantic outdoor rink and stands that had been filled with fans just moments before. As Price describes it, "it was a perfect day." Still, he's not in any rush to teach his daughter the tricks of his trade. "I'll teach her how to skate first," he laughs. "I'm definitely not going to force hockey onto her."

Nevertheless, well before this memorable first, the 30-year-old Vancouver native had already begun weaving his two worlds together. Not only is his little one, Liv, who turned two this May, a constant fixture on the sidelines at Habs games, cheering and giving her Dad kisses through the glass during warm-up, Price was quick to apply his wealth of experience as a leader on the ice into the realm of new dad-dom with one particular motto in mind: patience.   

"There's times where you're tired, and maybe aggravated, but you understand that you're dealing with a little life and a curious mind and you're here to help [them] develop," the athlete tells me over the phone, reflecting on those early, bleary-eyed days of parenthood. In spite of all the sleeplessness, Price is adamant about how essential those first few months — which he spent at home with his wife, Angela, and newborn — were in shaping his bond with his daughter. "I know that made a big difference," he says, "I think it's very important for the father to be around in the early stages of the child's life."

His firsthand experience is a big part of why Price is teaming up with Dove Men+Care this Father's Day to tackle a subject that's still tricky for so many Canadians: paternity leave. While most provinces throughout Canada grant new parents paid leave for a standard time frame of eight months (extended benefits can be granted for up to 14 months), and said leave can be taken by either parent, a 2017 StatsCan study found that only 28 per cent of recent fathers have taken or intend to take paternity leave.

So why are so many dads still steering away from the opportunity to stay home? "I still think there's a bit of a stigma behind it," Price posits. And he's on to something. It could be argued that our deeply entrenched conception of gender roles within the family unit, where women are seen as primary caregivers who are responsible for the bulk of domestic work, and men are seen as providers of income for whom childrearing is a secondary focus, really haven't shifted all that much despite the fact that the number of women in the workforce appears to be at an all time high. As the Canadiens' goalie puts it, it's still thought of as "not a "traditional" thing for the men to [do]."

An experiment out of Quebec, a province which follows a different leave plan than the rest of the country yet provides comparable benefits, seems to support Price's point, albeit indirectly. In 2006, the province introduced what's become known as "daddy days", a period of five weeks included in each family's parental leave that could only be taken by the father. In these instances, if the father didn't take the allotted time off, the family would lose that time altogether. In light of the stigma attached, incentivizing the choice may have helped to alleviate some of the hang-ups many men have around paternity leave — like the notion that it's a more traditionally "feminine" thing to do, that it may have a negative impact on their finances, or even demote them in the eyes of their coworkers or bosses. The experiment worked. As The Atlantic  reported, since the policy went into effect, "the percentage of Quebecois fathers taking paternity leave has skyrocketed, from about 10 per cent in 2001 to more than 80 per cent in 2010."

Further, in 2016, a global study of 91 countries including Canada, Norway, Germany and the United States, showed that, in countries with a higher amount of women in leadership and executive roles in the workplace, fathers were offered "11 times more paternity leave days" than those in countries that ranked lowest for gender-balance. This suggests a correlation between more men taking parental leave and women gaining parity in the workplace, a struggle that persists in Canada, where only 25.6 per cent of senior roles in the private sector are held by women and their earnings average $0.87 for every dollar earned by men. A 2010 study showed that this gap widens for women of colour, whose earnings reach 64 per cent of men's, with Indigenous women making just 46 per cent of an average Canadian man's income.

But the benefits of paternity leave go well beyond the workplace. Several studies have shown that dads who take time off after their child is born tend to be more involved in their lives, taking responsibility for things like feeding, changing and putting their child to bed, well after the leave ends, which can help to create more gender parity in the distribution of domestic work long-term. This, in turn, can help strengthen the connection between partners as well, as research demonstrates that couples who share household tasks equally report the highest levels of satisfaction with their relationships. It's something that Price saw happen in his own marriage, noting that "it's an important time to help build your relationship" with your partner.

Near the end of our chat, I hear the sound of a pair of pint-sized footsteps pattering into the room on the other end of the line. The athlete's voice instantly turns to honey as he spots his daughter. "Hi Liv! Whatcha doing?" he asks, and whether owing to parental leave or not, his unabashed affection is apparent.

So, aside from bringing the issue of paternity leave into the spotlight, what does Carey Price really want for Father's Day this year? In true canuck (or should we say Habs) fashion, he only has one simple ask: "A nice breakfast… like an egg white omelette or [I could] just go all out and get French toast." Noted — and Carey? We've got you covered.