Cool, Calm, Carey Price

Carey Price has thrived in the Montreal spotlight.

Carey Price has thrived in the Montreal spotlight.

Great article on Carey Price by Sean Gordon of The Globe and Mail.  I’ve pasted the entire article below and added some photos of Price or you can get it directly from The Globe here.  What’s most interesting about Price is how cool and calm he is about his success (hence the title of the article!).  He clearly is an example of someone for whom losing is just part of his mindset but when it happens he accepts it as part of his profession and looks for a way to avoid having it happen again.  It’s a long article but is a reminder of the type of coverage that sets newspaper reporting apart from blogging.

Will Price and Sydney Crosby end up Olympic teammates?

Will Price and Sydney Crosby end up Olympic teammates?

MONTREAL — It’s said Ron Hextall used to lock himself in a room before big games to shriek at the top of his lungs.

Jeff Hackett would darkly warn teammates of the bloody consequences of fiddling with his goaltending gear.

To say nothing of the deeply bizarre Gilles Gratton, who claimed to be the reincarnation of a Spanish conquistador and once pulled himself from a game because the stars were improperly aligned.

Let’s face it: Those who don the tools of ignorance and willingly stand in the way of large men with sticks and airborne bits of vulcanized rubber are necessarily a little odd.

But in the case of Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price, he of the Zen-like placidity and heavy-lidded languor, the weirdest thing is he’s not very weird at all.

There are no pregame rituals, no evident superstitions and no obvious quirks or zaniness.

The default expression on his broad, smooth-skinned face is a mix of bemusement and serenity as he sits in the far corner of the Habs’ opulent dressing room — his stall sits below a photo of Hall of Fame goalie Patrick Roy — large dark eyes taking in his surroundings.

That he can be so composed, level-headed and, well, normal in a city that eats its goaltenders raw makes it all the more remarkable.

He may be one of the few people on the planet who could use a prescription to increase his blood pressure.

“I don’t know,” Price said recently when asked about his demeanour. “I guess it’s because I grew up in the middle of nowhere. There’s not a lot to get excited about. And I think a lot of it comes from my parents and the way they raised me.”

Beautiful Anahim Lake, a 12hr drive from Vancouver

Beautiful Anahim Lake, a 12hr drive from Vancouver

Price was raised in Anahim Lake, B.C., a community in the northern Chilcotin wilderness so tiny it barely rates a dot on most road maps.

His mother, Lynda, is the chief of the Ulkatcho band and his non-native father, Jerry, a former minor-league goaltender who once bought a plane to fly Price to elite-level hockey in Williams Lake, B.C., 320 kilometres away, is a career consultant and part-time goalie coach with his son’s former junior team, the Tri-City Americans.

“Carey’s always been calm like that, even when we were little, but it’s probably what’s gotten him to where he is,” said Keaton Ellerby, a Florida Panthers first-round draft choice, who is Price’s cousin and close pal (Price’s hockey bloodlines are first-rate; Phoenix Coyotes captain Shane Doan is also a second cousin).

It’s tempting to use the convenient stereotype of his mother’s aboriginal roots to explain his temperament — and the outdoorsy Price is certainly proud of his Carrier Nation heritage — but Ellerby, whose father, Calvin, is Jerry Price’s first cousin, said that’s only part of the story.

“My dad’s constantly telling Carey he’s the spitting image of Jerry on the ice,” 20-year-old Ellerby said. “He looks like he’s half asleep out there, but he still stops pucks. I think it’s something he’s picked up from his dad.”

Even in this milquetoast era of minor eccentrics and neurosis-lite goalies (attribute it to the professionalization of goaltender coaching and role models such as unusually normal Martin Brodeur, the doyen of the league’s No. 1 netminders), 21-year-old Price stands apart by his almost preternatural calm.

Typically no more than content after victories, Price often is only marginally less so after losses — although if he is angry his eyes turn flinty — answering questions in the same relaxed drawl.

“I think it’s a strength of mine, I don’t put too much pressure on myself,” Price said.

That signature outlook has allowed Price to remain tranquil enough to see his way through the first significant bumpy patch of his career. Last season’s NHL playoffs gave a strong taste of failure to a player who to that point had piled up only successes: WHL goalie of the year, fifth overall NHL draft pick, world junior hockey championship most valuable player and Calder Cup MVP.

In addition to possessing the right admixture of temperament, talent and breeding, this is a young man who has now acquired an understanding of self-motivation and toil, pushing himself physically and psychologically to turn promise into accomplishment.

“I learned what it is to lose in the NHL,” Price said wryly, “and it hurts. I didn’t like it.”

Montreal's goalie situation became blurry in last year's playoffs when Price stuttered.

Montreal's goalie situation became blurry in last year's playoffs when Price stuttered.

That’s become fairly evident.

Price was Montreal’s player of the month for November, led all goaltenders in NHL all-star balloting until this week and is displaying a new level of confidence that’s evident in everything from the way he practises to his dealings with the ravenous Montreal media.

Price and former Oshawa General Rollie Melanson

Price and former Oshawa General Rollie Melanson

“He’s worked very hard,” Canadiens goalie coach Roland Melanson said in a recent interview. “Carey’s definitely a special package … you call that a thoroughbred.”

And Melanson thinks that beyond inheriting his father’s on-ice demeanour, Price has benefited from being steeped in the theory and practice of goaltending from his earliest years, learning almost as if by osmosis.

“Carey comes from a family of goaltenders,” Melanson said “… He’s been schooled by his dad since he was four or five years old, so he’s got really good feet and he also thinks the game very well. He’s also a proud athlete. He wants people to talk about him.”

And talk, they do. In just his second NHL season, Price’s attitude, pedigree and obvious physical gifts — he is 6-foot-3 and moves with languid, boneless grace on the ice — are prompting praise and whispered comments along the lines of: “The future of Canadian goaltending.”

And for Price, perhaps more than contemporaries such as Cam Ward of the Carolina Hurricanes or Marc-André Fleury of the Pittsburgh Penguins, the future may arrive sooner than he thinks.

Here’s the thing about Price: He’s a kid who likes to play video games, noodle around on his acoustic guitar (he’s figured out most of Johnny Cash’s repertoire) and wander around downtown Montreal to relax (he’d never lived in a large city until his 20th birthday). But he is also a single-minded pro athlete who often runs and pumps iron before on-ice workouts, who managed to shed nearly 30 pounds in the off-season and overhaul his diet and eating habits.

“The kid was eating lots of candy and burgers late at night, now you go out to dinner with him and he’s having rice and fish,” Habs defenceman Mike Komisarek said.

Careful nutrition, diligent exercise and intense practices — Price so hates giving up goals that he often gets visibly annoyed when he lets a soft one in during the morning skate — this is the new normal?

It’s a far cry from the days of Montreal dressing room knitter Jacques Plante and twitchy Roy, whose elaborate, obsessive compulsive pregame rituals and running dialogue with goalposts are the stuff of legend.

But Price remains a goalie and therefore a spiritual descendent of pregame puker Glenn Hall, well-travelled Gary (Suitcase) Smith, who always showered between periods, and Tony Esposito, who used to cordon off his equipment and slather his entire body in deep-heating rub before games.

“He’s not as bizarre as a lot of other goalies I know,” said Canadiens defenceman Josh Gorges, who is perhaps Price’s closest friend on the team. (Price lives in the same Old Montreal condo building as Gorges, forward Maxim Lapierre and defenceman Ryan O’Byrne.) “He’s got that small-town mentality, which I think is great as a fellow Western guy, and it allows him to not get too worked up about things. But he’s still a little off. I think there has to be something wrong with you to want to play nets.”

Gorges and Price often plan post-victory celebrations — switching helmets is a favourite and taking a few friendly swings at each other is another. And Price was one of the ringleaders in a ceremonial stick sacrifice on Long Island — forward Tom Kostopoulos came up with the idea — that involved one of Gorges’s sticks being chopped up, spray-painted, burned and dispersed at the four corners of the rink (two games later, Gorges scored his first goal in nearly 100 games).

During the pressure cooker of the NHL playoffs last season, in the series the Canadiens would ultimately lose to the Philadelphia Flyers, Price made a hash of playing the puck behind his own net, touching off a scramble that resulted his falling in a tangle of bodies behind the net with, among others, Gorges.

“I’m at the bottom of the pile, and Carey’s on top of me somewhere and I can hear him laughing,” Gorges said. “So I say to him, ‘How could you be laughing at a time like this?’ And all he said was, ‘That was a close one, eh?’ I didn’t know how to react to that, so I just started laughing, too.”

As a rookie, Price impressed more than just his teammates with his unruffled mien — “cool under pressure, mature beyond his years,” the hockey men and pundits grunted approvingly.

But in the playoffs, the bloom fell off the rose with some shaky performances and glaring mistakes — “not intense enough, too passive, can’t rise to the occasion,” the same hockey men and pundits grunted disapprovingly.

All of which, of course, is oversimplification.

What makes Price especially fascinating is, despite his poise and calm, he is a fierce, smouldering competitor.

Witness his off-season preparations, for example.

After the playoff debacle, Price packed away his hockey gear, turned off his cellphone, jumped in his truck and started driving west.

He then jetted off to Mexico for a three-week holiday with pals — he has maintained the same small circle of friends since grade school — and then disappeared into the woods of northern British Columbia to fish with his dad.

“Instead of having to do things for people all the time like you usually have to do in the summer, you turn your phone off and you go out in the bush for two months, nobody’s going to bother you up there,” Price said in an interview earlier this season.

But by late June, Price had moved to Calgary to train with Ellerby as part of a punishing on-ice and weight-room regimen.

The goaltender worked out so intensely he lost 28 pounds, a number that shocked the Canadiens’ training staff, who were both impressed and dismayed Price had taken their suggestion to drop a little weight so literally.

“He really hit the gym hard … but he wants to be the best, and he’s pushing himself to be the best,” said Ellerby, who is currently playing for the Rochester Americans of the AHL.

For all that, Price is every inch the 21-year-old, who’s dealing with the usual postadolescent preoccupations, such as learning to cook a decent meal, finding cool furniture and reminding himself he needn’t wait until all his clothes are dirty before doing laundry. With the key difference that his bank balance has several more zeroes than the average freshly minted university graduate’s.

Price's mask garnered a surprise delivery in the mail.

Price's mask garnered a surprise delivery in the mail.

And most students didn’t receive unsolicited parcels this past summer from country music star Garth Brooks, whose likeness adorns Price’s goalie mask.

“I was trying to remember if I’d ordered anything through eBay,” Price said. “It turned out to be an autographed picture. That was pretty cool.”

He also found it “really cool” to be standing next to Roy — the totemic Canadiens goaltender of his generation — on Nov. 22, when Roy’s famed number, 33, was raised to the Bell Centre rafters.

“Not only do I have [Roy’s] picture looking over my shoulder in the dressing room, now he’s going to be over my shoulder on the ice as well,” Price said jokingly.

Despite the levity, he appeared to studiously drink in all the pomp and circumstance, and he could be forgiven for having a fleeting thought that perhaps, one day …

"To you from failing hands we throw the torch; be yours to hold it high."  The Flanders Field quote on the wall of the Canadiens' dressing room.

"To you from failing hands we throw the torch; be yours to hold it high." The Flanders Field quote on the wall of the Canadiens' dressing room.

Not that you could tell what he was thinking from that mild, slightly inscrutable, nearly expressionless face.

By the numbers

41

Games started by Carey Price during his rookie NHL year with the Montreal Canadiens. He posted a 24-12-3 record, with a 2.56 goals-against average and .920 save percentage.

1

Price is the only person to win honours as the Canadian Hockey League’s goalie of the year, world junior championship MVP and AHL MVP in the same season in 2006-07. (He led the Hamilton Bulldogs to an AHL championship with a 15-6 record, 2.06 GAA and .936 save percentage.)

Price celebrated Canada's win at the World Jrs.

Price celebrated Canada's win at the World Jrs.

6-0

Price was 6-0, with two shutouts and a minuscule 1.14 GAA, at the 2007 world junior event.

83

Career wins with his junior team, the Tri-City Americans, making Price the club’s career leader. He is also the WHL club’s record holder for shutouts, lowest GAA and save percentage.

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