By Frank Larue
“Even when they’re not going well, you figure Carey Price is going to win a few games for you,” said the Montreal Gazette. Carey Price is the only First Nations goalie working presently in the NHL. He was born in Anahim Lake, British Columbia. His mother Lynda is the former chief of the Ulkatcho First Nations. His father Jerry was a goaltender and was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in 1978 but never suited up for the Flyers. Jerry may have never seen his dream come true, but he was the first to recognize his son’s athletic talents. He was Carey’s mentor and perhaps a tough taskmaster at times, but he was also supportive, and Carey was a good student. Jerry is currently the goaltender coach for the Tri-City Americans, which was the team Carey played with before the Montreal Canadians drafted him.
Carey was a standout prospect in his junior years. He is the only goaltender in the history of the game to be named CHL Goaltender of the year, World Junior Championship Tournament MVP, and win the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy all in the same year. By the time he put on a Montreal Canadians jersey in 2007, expectations were high, and he won his first NHL game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Montreal won the division title that year, for the first time since 1992. The next year was not as rewarding. Carey broke his ankle in December and was on the injury list for a month. It was a turbulent year, but Carey was voted the starting goalie for the All-Star Game. He survived the injury, but the Canadians were blown out in the first round of the playoffs, and the Bruins scored four goals every game Carey was in goal.
The 2009 season would prove to be Carey’s darkest hour. He was hoping to regain his form, but instead he was replaced by backup goalie Jaroslav Halak. It was a bitter pill to swallow, but Carey realized it was all part of the learning process. How he dealt with it showed a degree of maturity that went beyond his years. “You spend the whole summer dwelling on how well you did, and you forget what made it so successful. Every young person, not only in hockey but in life, thinks they know more than they do. That’s probably the biggest thing. You don’t have it figured out; you can’t buy experience.” It was the year the Canadians made a surprising run for the cup. No one expected the team to be a contender, but with Halak between the pipes they defeated the favored Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins. They eventually lost in the third round, but it as close the Canadians had come to winning Lord Stanley in over a decade.
The next year, both Halak and Price were free agents, and fans were hoping Halak after his brilliant performance in the playoffs would be signed. The Montreal front office had different plans. They traded Halak to St. Louis Blues and signed Carey to a two-year contract worth 5.5 million dollars. Carey had a stellar year after the signing, with 38 wins and 8 shutouts even though the team didn’t make it past the first round in the playoffs. This year, the Canadians have struggled but are improving as the season moves on, and Carey was just voted player of the week for two consecutive shutouts. “I’m not too surprised,” he said. “I was always confident in our group. I think we all were working hard. We just weren’t getting the breaks. We’re all really confident in our ability, so we just keep working at it.”
The hockey crystal ball is a little foggy this year. Neither Boston nor the Canucks who fought seven games before the Bruins got to sip out of Lord Stanley’s cup are looking like their former selves. Toronto Maple Leafs are actually looking like a contender, Edmonton Oilers are riding to the top of the league with their young guns, and Carey Price is building a reputation as one of the great goaltenders of his generation.