I was sitting at home the other night trying to catch up on all the highlights from the night NHL hockey. At one point, I came across a poll on a national sports network that asked: which NHL goalie would you like to have in net for a one-game, take-all situation? That’s when I turned the television off and started writing. Without staying tuned in to see whom our nation voted for, I had made up my mind: Carey Price.
I say this without necessarily being a huge fan of his. Actually, when I was coaching Cristobal Huet in Mannheim during the lockout, I told him he would run Jose Theodore out of Montreal. With absolutely no disrespect for Theodore, I simply believed Huet’s talents and abilities would not be over-looked if he were given the opportunity to display them. So it was quite bitter for me to see the same thing happen to Huet a few years later upon Price’s arrival in Montreal.
The 23-year-old came to La Belle Province as a Western League all-star, World Junior Championship gold medalist and a Calder Cup winner with the Canadiens’ American League affiliate, the Hamilton Bulldogs. The media had made Price an NHL star before he ever strapped on the pads for an NHL game.
He was great from Day 1. But sometimes, greatness isn’t enough. Understanding greatness at a young age can be difficult, especially if it comes easily and you fail to recognize how much work was put into attaining those accolades. Many times our growth, maturity and most-important lessons are derived from overcoming disappointments and failures. I believe the best thing that happened to Price was when he had to take a back-seat role to Jaroslav Halak last season during the team’s Cinderella playoff run.
Every athlete plays with pride and is driven by an insane passion to win. As hockey players, we understand it’s a team game, but we all want to be the hero. Every player on the bench wants that challenge. I am certain Price wanted that challenge; that is where the growing process began for him. He watched, listened, worked and maintained a positive attitude every time he went to the rink. But silently, the passion was burning inside of him. The chip on his shoulder was growing bigger and bigger - he would prove to the team, its loyal fans and the entire hockey world that he can and wants to be “that guy.”
The Canadiens management team wisely recognized this in Price’s character and made the difficult and, at the time, controversial decision to re-sign Price to a new contract, opting to trade away the goalie who had the city of Montreal preparing for a Stanley Cup parade. Price has returned the favor. He is more poised in the net and his confidence is spreading through the team with every win.
If it came down to one game and Price was my goalie, I’d be feeling pretty good about my chances.
Mike Rosati is a former professional goalie and current owner of the Canadian Goaltending Academy in Barrie, Ont. He grew up in Toronto, played in the OHL before being drafted by the New York Rangers. He then opted to head to Europe where he spent 14 seasons in Italy and Germany's DEL winning eight combined championships. Between 1994 and 2003 he was a key member of Italy's national team, participating in two Olympics and nine World Championships.