MONTREAL - Long before Carey Price was making trips to Las Vegas to attend the NHL Awards, he backstopped the Williams Lake Midget AAA Timberwolves to a provincial crown.
That was in March 2003, when Price was just 15 years old.
"It was the first time I'd really won anything," shared the Olympic gold medalist, referencing his team's 4-2 victory over Kamloops to capture the championship in Kelowna. "We weren't by any means supposed to win and we did. It was a lot of fun to play hockey that season."
Price's head coach at the time, Sid Davis, recalls his young goaltender turning in a performance for the ages to lead his Timberwolves to victory.
"I knew if we came back with Carey in the final, we'd be ok," said Davis, who didn't feature Price between the pipes in a round-robin loss to Kamloops the day prior to the final. "I think the shots were like 71-24 in their favor in that championship game, and we still managed to win. If there was ever a game where I saw him stand on his head, that was it. He stole us the provincials that night. It seemed like he flicked on a switch and you just knew he wasn't going to lose."
Fast forward 14 years, and things obviously haven't changed much. After claiming the Vezina Trophy in 2015 - along with the Hart Trophy, Ted Lindsay Award, and William M. Jennings Award - Price is once again a finalist for the prestigious goaltending award, going up against Sergei Bobrovsky and Braden Holtby this time around.
Price's success doesn't necessarily come as a surprise to Davis, who first caught sight of the future All-World netminder when he was playing Pee-Wee Rep hockey at a tournament in Abbotsford.
"He was always a big kid, even at that age. He was mature and poised. That's definitely what I remember about him. You could see that he wanted to go out and impress people and show them what he was capable of doing. That was my first instinct with him," mentioned Davis, before expanding upon the then-teenaged Price's impressive skill set.
"He was very sound technically. Jerry [Carey's father, a former goaltender himself] put some great structure in his goaltending," explained Davis. "He could also really move the puck. He worked hard at it. He could shoot it just as hard as some of the defensemen his age. If the other team dumped the puck in, we'd usually keep three forwards high so he could move the puck up three zones."
But, Davis adds, it was Price's attitude as a youngster that really separated him from the pack and ultimately propelled him to reach new heights down the road.
"The best thing about him is you wouldn't know if we were winning 10-0 or losing 10-0. He never got rattled. His demeanor didn't really change. He was always a really positive guy. Pointing fingers was never his thing, and I think that's why everybody loved to play with him," recalled Davis, who still sees the same qualities in Price today. "I see it with the Canadiens, and I saw it at the World Juniors and at the Olympics. I just sat back, watched him play and said, 'He's not going to let in a goal.' That self-confidence has always been there. He even had it at 13 years old."
Price has equally fond memories of playing under Davis in Bantam and Midget Rep, before he moved on to join the WHL's Tri-City Americans in Washington State.
"When you're in minor hockey, it's all about having fun. Sid made it fun. He made the game enjoyable and made guys laugh," shared Price on Davis' impact during those key years. "He was also probably the first person to actually hold guys accountable, which was good to see. We were a really tight group and everybody was good."
Price and his former bench boss remain close, so it's a safe bet that Davis will be tuning in to see if his prized pupil adds some more hardware to his already impressive collection come Wednesday night.
Win or lose, though, Price will always have Davis in his corner - and in his growing fan club.
"Carey isn't just a great goalie, he's a great person. He's someone I'm proud to call my friend," said Davis. "He's very, very proud of where he comes from, and I think he's an amazing role model for anybody."