Many people in hockey believe that the goaltending position is the most important position in hockey. As a matter of fact, the closer to your own net you are, the more important the position. It makes a lot of sense when you think about it. When a forward makes a mistake, there are two defensemen and a goalie who can fix it. When a defenseman makes a mistake, it’s more dangerous but even they have the goaltender who can save their bacon. But if a goalie makes a mistake, there’s no one to fix it but an empty net behind him. Also, he’s on the ice for 60 minutes when a good defenseman will play around 25 minutes and a good forward close to 20.
The most stressful job in hockey is said to be the goaltender of the Montreal Canadiens. The position has historically been occupied by outstanding athletes, often the best in the game in their respective era. They even named a trophy after one of them: the Vezina Trophy, handed to the league’s best goaltender, in honour of the great Georges Vezina. Over the years, the Canadiens have had the good fortune of being able to count on players like Georges Hainsworth, Bill Durnan, Jacques Plante, Lorne “Gump” Worsley, Ken Dryden and Patrick Roy.
The pressure and high expectations on Carey Price started the day he was drafted fifth overall by the Canadiens. Many questioned the Habs selecting him so high. Some suggested picking Anze Kopitar, most wanted… Gilbert Brulé! Either way, fans and media felt like the Canadiens were already in good shape in goal, as José Théodore was only three seasons removed from winning the Vezina and Hart Trophies. Just a few months prior to the Draft, Théo was at the All-Star game. But then Habs’ GM Bob Gainey knew that Price’s best quality was his cool demeanour, a key element to have success in net playing for the Canadiens.
“How would you like a job where when you made a mistake, a big red light goes on and 18,000 people boo you?” ~ Jacques Plante
Today, the 34 year-old Anahim, BC native counts more wins (360) than any other goaltender in the Canadiens’ rich history and he should soon be entering his 15th season with Montreal. Talk about pressure over a long period of time! It takes a special type of character, of person to be able to sustain such a high level of performances over that long of a period of time while wearing the red, white and blue.
“I quit early, mainly because of ulcers. “Why I had ulcers I don’t know, but it didn’t help being a goalie. It’s the toughest, most under-appreciated job in sports. The goalie always takes the rap. It’s always his fault when you lose. The crowd gets on you and then the papers pick it up. Soon the players themselves begin to think you’re to blame.” – Former Leafs’ goalie Frank McCool
Great human being
We will spare you the on-ice accolades regarding Price, as we all know them so well. What’s not as well known is how good of a human being he truly is and how big of a heart the man behind the mask has. Because of his shy and cool demeanour, people often mistakenly think that he’s disinterested, or that he doesn’t care.
In press conferences, he’s short, to the point and doesn’t stand for none-sense questions, much like his good friend Shea Weber. For that reason, he’s an easy target for reporters, particularly those in search of sensation and controversy. But those who know him will tell you that the nitpicking about Price cannot be further from the truth.
We have all heard the story of Anderson Whitehead, who lost his mother to cancer in November 2018. Before she died, Laura Whitehead told her young son that she would do everything in her power to ensure that he would one day meet his favourite hockey player, Montreal Canadiens goaltender… Carey Price. As Price was getting off the ice at the end of a practice at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, he approached the 11-year-old and gave him a big hug. He signed the boy’s shirt, mini-hockey stick, a hockey puck and gave him two of his goalie sticks, which he also signed. Video of the interaction showed Anderson Whitehead crying while resting his head on Price’s shoulder. Price whispered “it will be OK” to the boy.
A few months after getting to meet Price, the NHL called Anderson with an invitation to Las Vegas for the 2019 annual NHL Awards. He asked the NHL representative if Price would be there and was told that he couldn’t be. The then 11-year-old boy became overwhelmed with emotion as his hero surprised him once again. As the young man was on stage, the NHL showed a video of Price wishing him the best… until his idol showed up in person, at Anderson’s biggest surprise. It was a very emotional moment, when Price gave him a hug on stage. The Canadiens’ goaltender was heard whispering “Everything is alright, bud. Everything is OK. We are going to have fun here, OK?”
But not all of Price’s good will is caught on camera. As a matter of fact, as bizarre as it may seem, he doesn’t like the limelight, particularly not off-ice. Price comes from a humble background. His mother, Lynda, is chief of the Ulkatcho First Nation, the first woman elected to the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs. He knows the importance and influence he has on young children, and he has not forgotten his first-nation heritage. Carey and his wife Angela are heavily involved with the Breakfast Club of Canada, providing much needed morning meals to children who don’t have the luxury of having some regularly.
Any chance he gets, he returns to the Reservation in the Anahim lake area to speak to the children there. He provides hockey equipment for kids needing some to play hockey in this remote area of Northern BC.
“My grandmother faced social injustices as a young girl in residential school,” Price stated. “I learned at an early age these acts are not tolerable. The mistreatment and misplacement of First Nations peoples in America and Canada has echoed generations of poverty and substance abuse. These facts must also be brought to light. In our house we will not see the colour of your skin, but the character of your heart,” Price added.
Price is also heavily involved with the Carson Kozig Foundation and the Montreal Canadiens Childrens Foundation. As you can see, most if not all of Price’s charity work is related to under-privileged or sick children. As a part of his charity efforts, he received the Jean Beliveau Trophy in 2014.
But Price doesn’t do this for recognition. As good as he might be on the NHL’s biggest stage, while defending the net for the Montreal Canadiens or Team Canada, what differentiates Price and defines him most, is his huge heart and incredible generosity. He is a true role model in all its meaning and children are his focus… including his own.
Support From Teammates
Mike Hoffman recently described Price as “a legend”. For good friend Jeff Petry, he’s “a monster”. “Amazing” is the word used by Tyler Toffoli when asked to describe Price and Ben Chiarot went all the way to calling him “a Hall of Famer”. But he’s first and foremost, a human being. A husband. A father. A brother, a son. And this Superman took a leap of faith that people would understand and support him when he entered the NHL and NHLPA’s Assistance Program. Thankfully, most people have his back.
As you can see, Carey Price is so much more than one of the NHL’s top goaltenders and arguably the best in his era. He is a man of honour, with a heart bigger than the Bell Centre, who cares about his team, his teammates, and mostly about his family and children everywhere. Never, ever forget, in your criticism of their performances, that these guys are human being first and while they do make more money than most of us, they have feelings and use their status to do good deeds. Get well soon Carey. We miss you.