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Beginning again

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens

MONTREAL – Take it from Stephane Waite. When Carey Price arrives at training camp, the last thing he’ll be thinking about is the vast array of hardware he collected in Las Vegas back in late June.

Waite, who is entering his third season mentoring the reigning Hart Trophy, Vezina Trophy, William M. Jennings Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award winner, insists Price is ready to move on with the business of a brand new campaign in hopes of leading the Canadiens to hockey’s promised land in 2015-16.

“He’ll gladly exchange all of those trophies for a Stanley Cup any time. I know that. Winning the Cup is the most important thing to Carey. I know he’s happy about those awards, and I’m very proud of him, but the only thing he wants is the Cup. He wants to win so badly. He just hates losing,” shared Waite, who boasts over three decades of coaching experience – and two Stanley Cup rings – on his resume. “That’s what makes him so good. When you hate something, you’ll do anything you can to avoid it. I thought I was the guy who hated losing the most in the world, but Carey’s pretty close to that.”

According to Waite, that general distaste for coming out on the wrong side of the scoresheet is just one of many qualities that have propelled Price to All-World status in recent years. Having immeasurable natural talent – and a level of mental toughness that is second to none – has also been a driving force behind the Anahim Lake, BC native’s meteoric rise up the NHL’s goaltending ranks, too.

“I look at his capacity to always focus on the right things and stay calm during games. I’ve always been impressed by that. You can drive the net as many times as you want and try to bother him, but nothing will affect him. He’s just so strong mentally. He’s always thinking about that next shot and then the shot after that. That’s all. That’s something pretty special,” praised Waite, who has also coached the likes of Corey Crawford, Antti Niemi, Nikolai Khabibulin and Patrick Lalime over the years. “He also has an incredibly short memory, which is so important for a goaltender. That’s why we’re starting from scratch again. Last year doesn’t mean anything anymore. We’ll never talk about it. We don’t care about the stats and the numbers. That’s the approach we’re taking. Carey loves that way of thinking. We’re moving on with a new season and we’ll try to get even better.”

That begs the question – How does a goaltender like Price get "even better" than he is already? It might be tough to fathom, but Waite insists there’s always room for even the most talented of pros to hone their game.

“Sometimes, people ask me – ‘Is there something you want to improve with Carey?’ No, there really isn’t anything, in particular. We just want to improve in every area. We’ll try to get better and better by working on his strengths. It’s always possible [to improve]. That’s the only thing we’re going to work on. It’s the only objective,” shared Waite, who has seen Price rack up 78 regular season victories, 15 shutouts and a 2.14 goals-against average under his tutelage over the last two seasons combined. “His game preparation is very good. He’s very good technically. He’s in great shape. He’s a great athlete, and he’s a serious guy. It’s easy to work with players like that. He’s the best in the world, and there’s a reason why. Basically, he’s got everything.”

That also includes a unique ability to lead by example, and be a player his teammates can look to as a source of inspiration and motivation alike all season long.

“The best way for a goalie to be a leader is the way Carey goes about preparing for every game. That’s the best example he can give. The guys see the way he practices and focuses for every start. He’s at the rink every day, even on days off. He’s always taking care of his body, coming in for treatment or doing video sessions. He’s always doing something to be better,” mentioned Waite, who can’t say enough good things about Price’s commitment to his craft and remarkable compete level. “Then, there’s his ability to battle no matter what, battle until the end, until the last second. That’s the message he’s sending to the other guys, too. Your body language on the ice is part of being a good leader. Carey is very good at it. That’s how he’s become such a great leader for this team.”

And, in addition to standing tall night in and night out between the pipes, that’s exactly why Waite believes his prized pupil has steadily earned the admiration of his peers.

“There’s nothing fake with Carey. He isn’t trying to be under the spotlight all the time. He’s not comfortable with that. He’s a real team guy. Some guys just say that, but with him you can feel that it’s true. The only thing he wants to do is be a part of a team and win,” concluded Waite. “That’s why his teammates love him so much. He’s very well respected in the locker room.”

Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.

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