BOSTON (CBS) — Just days after making comments about the lack of playoff atmosphere in the NHL’s bubble, Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask has decided to go home.
The Bruins announced Saturday — just about 100 minutes before the start of Game 3 of their first-round series — that the 34-year-old Finn has opted out of the NHL’s restart.
“I want to be with my teammates competing, but at this moment there are thins more important than hockey in my life, and that is being with my family,” Rask said in a statement released by the team. “I want to thank the Bruins and my teammates for their support and wish them success.”
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) August 15, 2020
With Jaroslav Halak in net in place of Rask, the Bruins beat the Hurricanes 3-1 to take a 2-1 series lead over the Hurricanes.
Bruins general manager Don Sweeney issued a statement of support for Rask after the announcement was made.
“We understand completely where Tuukka is coming from,” Sweeney said. “And I don’t think it’s any big surprise to us, to be honest with you. We are privy to information maybe before the rest of the public is, and this has been a difficult decision for Tuukka. But the Boston Bruins are in full support of why he made this decision.”
Sweeney added: “In Tuukka’s case, he has a newborn at home along with two other young girls, and he just felt that he needed to be home with them at this particular time. You can’t control the timeline of when the playoffs resumed. Give Tuukka a hell of a lot of credit for trying to persevere through this and initiate the process to come up and be with his teammates. Because, first and foremost, that’s what he wants to do. But the priorities are in the right order and this is what he has to do at this time.”
After the Bruins lost 3-2 in Game 2 on Thursday night, Rask made some attention-grabbing comments about his outlook inside the NHL’s unique “bubble” experience.
“I’m just trying to have fun and play the game. I’m not stressing too much about the results and whatnot,” Rask said. “You know, it’s August and I haven’t played hockey. So just go out there and have fun, and see what happens for me.”
Tuukka Rask: “I’m just trying to have fun and play the game. I’m not stressing too much about the results and whatnot. … Just go out there and have fun, and see what happens for me.” pic.twitter.com/5PxRY5SCh5
— Michael Hurley (@michaelFhurley) August 14, 2020
Rask also said that the empty environment in the arena without fans made the playoff games feel like exhibition games.
Rask and his wife, Jasmiina, welcomed their third daughter to their family in April.
“Last summer was very short. The past two seasons combined together almost, it felt like. I’ve kind of used this time off to get my mind off of hockey and just focus on family,” Rask told the Bruins’ official website in May. “We travel a lot and it gets taxing mentally to be away from your family. Just tried to re-focus my energy to family and just try to be present here at home.”
Rask’s postgame comments were a topic of discussion when the Bruins met with the media on Friday, though head coach Bruce Cassidy said that he anticipated Rask would be the starter for Game 3 vs. Carolina on Saturday.
Instead, it will be Jaroslav Halak taking over as the starting goaltender.
Earlier this season, Rask decided to skip the All-Star Game, saying at the time that he chose being with his family over making the multi-day trip to the festivities. Rask also took a leave of absence in 2018 to deal with a family matter.
Rask has one year remaining on the eight-year, $56 million deal he signed after the 2013 season.