The Price-Plante connection
Four decades ago, Carey Price's father, Jerry, was mentored by Jacques Plante after being drafted by the Philadelphia Flyersby Matt Cudzinowski @CanadiensMTL / canadiens.com
MONTREAL - Long before Carey Price was about to etch his name alongside Jacques Plante as the busiest goaltenders to ever don the CH, his father Jerry studied the tricks of the goaltending trade under the Hall-of-Famer himself.
That was 40 years ago, after Jerry was selected in the eighth round, 126th overall by the Philadelphia Flyers in 1978. Plante was serving as the Flyers' goalie coach at the time when a 20-something Price arrived at training camp eager to learn from the six-time Stanley Cup Champion and seven-time Vezina Trophy winner.
"I was a real student of goalies, then," said the elder Price, whose son sits just one game shy of tying his former mentor for the most games played by a goaltender in franchise history - 556 - with five games remaining on the schedule. "I knew everything about Jacques because I'd read every article and all the books that had been written about him and all the books about goaltending, too."
Mr. Price recalls Plante welcoming him into the Flyers' goaltending fold with open arms, even if he wasn't necessarily atop their prospect pool given his draft position.
"I wasn't really high on their list and they already had quite a few good goalies in their system, but Jacques still kind of went out of his way to just sit and talk with me when I was watching practices and the other goalies work. I really appreciated the effort he made to talk to me," said Mr. Price, whom the Flyers picked following his fourth and final season in the Western Canada Hockey League. "For some reason, Jacques kind of liked me. I think it was because I tried to pattern myself after Bernie Parent, and Jacques was also Bernie's mentor."
Mr. Price still vividly remembers fine-tuning his game with Plante's help, noting that the veteran netminder took an especially thorough approach when it came to mentorship - and his love of the sport and passion for teaching really shone through.
"Jacques was just detailed when he explained something. Sitting with him and having him talk about different aspects of the game, you could tell that it was something that he loved and was passionate about. That's what drew me in, because that's what I loved, too. There's nothing that I loved more than hockey and playing goal. That's the way Jacques was," reminisced Mr. Price. "Paying attention to those details and keeping that passion for playing and the game itself alive was why he played until he was 45 years old."
Admittedly, as his son approached Plante's games played mark, Mr. Price often thought back to his time working with the Shawinigan Falls, QC native, who is among his hockey heroes to this day.
"As Carey worked his way up in Montreal over the years, and when I think of the things he's accomplished, I often think of Jacques," concluded Mr. Price, who also saw his son best Plante and fellow Hall-of-Famer Ken Dryden's single-season franchise record of 42 victories with 44 wins of his own in 2014-15. "The impact of just getting to know him, what a blessing it was in my life. Just to have Carey come to this point, it's just really nice to say that I knew the man."