By Frank Larue
On January fifth, Canada won the world junior hockey championship, its first in Europe in a decade. The Canadian juniors won their third straight gold medal with a 4-2 win overRussia and without the blessed Sidney Crosby in the lineup,even though he was eligible. Instead,the team triumphed with a stellar defensive squad anchored by defencemen Luc Bourdon and Marc Staal and goaltender, Carey Price.
In the final minutes of the third period, the Russians had a two man advantage but Price shut the door with spectacular saves as he had done throughout the tournament. ’’He was the difference in this game and in most of the games we’ve played,’’ Marc Staal told TSN. And he wasn’t alone in praising his goalie. Carey was named MVP and top goaltender of the tournament.’’ I couldn’t have done it without my teammates,’’ Carey said. ‘’Playing behind a team like that makes my job easy. We had a lot of first round picks and everyone is drafted.’’
Carey Price grew up in Anahim Lake where his mother Lynda is the chief of the Ulkatcho band. His father Jerry, a former goaltender, was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers but due to knee injuries never went beyond the minor leagues. ‘’His knowledge was such a big help for me,‘’ Carey told reporters in Sweden. ‘’He knows the ups and downs of hockey and he knows how to deal with it. He’s been through everything I’m going through.’’
The nineteen year old, six foot two, 215 pound goaltender is a draft pick of the Montreal Canadians and has been compared to New Jersey’s Marty Brodeur for his puck handling ability and to Roberto Luongo for his athleticism and uncanny knack for stopping pucks when players in front of him are blocking his view. Canadian head coach Craig Hartsburg said of Price: ‘’He handles the puck well and I think that’s an advantage on the big ice, he is helping us handle the puck below the goal line. He looks big in net and we feel very confident in him.’’
Carey is in his fourth season with the Tri-City Americans where he has become a fan favorite and is well respected by his teammates.
‘’He’s a great goalie,’’ Leland Irving his partner in net states, ‘’and it really showed in the tournament how good he is; not only winning gold but all the other hardware. It’s unbelievable what he has accomplished.‘’
The road to the gold medal wasn’t paved with gold, though. Carey, like Jonathan Chee Choo who scored 56 goals for San Jose in 2006,had many difficulties to overcome to make his dream come true.
He began playing minor hockey at age 10, when the closest teams were in Williams Lake. He and his father Jerry drove 640 kilometres round trip three times a week for practices and games until Jerry bought a small airplane, a four seater Piper Cherokee ‘’It was more a lawnmower with wings.’’
Jerry, who finally moved his family to Williams Lake, remembers the time spent with his son while he was growing up to be a hockey player. ’’The whole time, flying or driving, was a special time because we got to spend a lot of time together. Driving home late at night, we’d listen to hockey games because out in the boonies we could get radio stations from everywhere late at night in the winter. He liked to play and I wanted to give him the chance to play if that’s what he wanted to do because I know how important hockey was to me in my life.’’
Carey Price still has a few hurdles to jump before he puts on a Montreal Canadians sweater. But noone who watched him perform in Sweden, including Canadians manager Bob Gainey, has any doubt that he will join the team and become one of the premier goalies in professional hockey. The accolades are accumulating and Carey still holds on to his original dream. ‘’Play in the NHL. That’s my dream.’’