Montreal Canadiens star Carey Price apologized on Tuesday to people affected by the 1989 Montreal massacre after he made a social media post in support of a firearms rights group in the days leading up to the anniversary of the mass shooting.
The goaltender said on Instagram that he stands by his opinions but acknowledged the timing may have been hurtful.
"I acknowledge that amplifying any conversation around guns this week may have upset some of those impacted most by the events here in 1989, and to them I apologize," he wrote in a statement posted to his Instagram story.
His apology came on the 33rd anniversary of Dec. 6, 1989, when a man motivated by a hatred of feminists shot and killed 14 women and injured 13 other people at the École Polytechnique engineering school.
Price on Saturday posted a photo of himself dressed in camouflage holding a rifle, with a caption expressing his opposition to a federal bill that would ban assault-style firearms.
"I love my family, I love my country and I care for my neighbour. I am not a criminal or a threat to society," the caption read. Price went on to call the Liberal gun legislation "unjust."
He also expressed his support for the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights, which has been criticized in recent days for using "POLY" as a promo code to offer discounts in its online shop.
The Montreal Canadiens apologized Monday to those who had been hurt by the controversy and said they were making a donation to Polytechnique's annual fundraiser in memory of the victims. The team said Price was not aware of the promotional code nor of the "unfortunate timing" of his message.
Price wrote Tuesday that "despite a previous statement released," he was aware of the Dec. 6 tragedy and the importance it holds to Montrealers.
"I think the people of Montreal know my heart and my character and know I would never intentionally cause pain to those impacted by gun violence," he wrote, adding that his "heart and prayers" are with the victims.
The debate comes as MPs in Ottawa are discussing Bill C-21, which would enshrine a definition of prohibited assault-style firearms.
The coalition for firearm rights and Conservative MPs have denounced proposed amendments to the bill as an attack on law-abiding, licensed gun owners.
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said Monday it appears the gun Price is holding in his Instagram post is legal and will remain so under the government's legislation.
"You see now the consequences of that, where people are operating from false assumptions and confusion. We need to make sure that we have a thoughtful debate that is based on the facts," he said.
Before his apology, Price had written on Twitter Monday that he raised the issue of guns because the debate is happening now, and "not out of disrespect for anyone."
"I continue to stand beside my fellow hunters and sport shooters who have legally acquired our property and use in a safe manner," he wrote.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 6, 2022.
Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said the 14 victims were students, but in fact one was an employee.