Carey Price, the winningest goalie in Montreal Canadiens history, has almost surely played his last NHL game in a 15-year career, a knee injury leaving him unable to continue beyond the close of the 2021-22 season. On Nov. 11 in Toronto, spent six hours with Price for an exclusive two-part feature on his life in hockey and beyond the game. Part 1 appeared on Sunday.

TORONTO -- There was a far-away look in Carey Price’s eyes, standing in the warm glow of Bell Centre lights for “The Star-Spangled Banner,” then “O Canada.”

This wasn’t just Game 82 of the Montreal Canadiens’ 2021-22 season, the team soon to pack up after failing to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

It was April 29, 2022, Price about to play his fifth and final game that season. And the goalie knew, as he prepared to face the playoff-bound Florida Panthers on Fan Appreciation Night, that he might never play again.

The Canadiens were wearing a “10” patch on their jerseys in memory of Guy Lafleur, the team icon who had died seven days earlier. That Montreal would score 10 goals that night in a 10-2 victory was almost surreal.

Price had battled all season long to return from the knee surgery he had undergone in New York the previous offseason. A simple tidying of frayed meniscus revealed something far more serious: the shock-absorbing cartilage in his knee was virtually gone, leaving the joint rubbing bone on bone.

4 Price first game

His mask not yet painted for his NHL debut, Carey Price defends the Montreal Canadiens net against Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin, supported by defenseman Mike Komisarek, on Oct. 10, 2007 in Pittsburgh.

The native of Anahim Lake, British Columbia was still considering off-season cartilage transplant surgery as the anthems played that night, ultimately choosing against it given that he was about to turn 35, that he was deep in his career and that possible complications could impact his life after hockey.

“I prepared that day like I’d be playing my final game,” Price said. “I didn't know for sure. At that time, I was still trying to weigh my options of having another surgery. I went through the whole day in the process of preparing like this was it. 

“That whole day I kind of took everything in, as if were my last game, just really being aware of everything that I did throughout the day. The routine, the noises, the scenes … I really took mental note of everything that day that was going on.”

Price took his equipment home to Kelowna, British Columbia and tried skating that summer to gauge his fitness. 

“I wanted to see what the knee was like after having given it a break,” he said. “Still the same.”

15 Price signing

Carey Price prepares to meet the several hundred fans lined up for his autograph during his Nov. 11, 2023 appearance at the Sport Card Expo in Toronto.

His bond with his team remained unbroken during the 2022-23 season, Price regularly on a team group chat.

But at the season-opening charity golf tournament two months ago, Price sized up the dining room, the current players at some tables, alumni at others, and chose to sit with the coaches.

“I kind of felt like this year, it’s time to get off the group chat,” he said. “But I still talk to some of the guys. I talk to (goalie) Jake (Allen) every so often to see how he’s doing. I keep in touch with a lot of them, checking in on them.”

Price attended the team’s 2023-24 home opener, Bell Centre exploding when he was shown on the scoreboard, chants of “Car-ey! Car-ey!” rocking the building.

“That was heartwarming,” he said with a pause, the emotions still fresh. “I don’t know if there’s anything that I can compare that to. Heartwarming and uplifting.”

Price had quietly put on skates five months earlier -- the most recent time, in fact -- at the team’s suburban training facility, Canadiens goalie Sam Montembeault headed in May to the IIHF World Championship in Europe.

14 Price signs one stick

Carey Price autographs a goalie stick during his Nov. 11, 2023 appearance at the Sport Card Expo in Toronto.

“Sam was getting ready to go to the Worlds and nobody was in town,” Price said. “It was a couple of weeks after the season ended. Sam didn’t have anybody to shoot on him so me and Paul Byron (the Canadiens forward who would retire four months later) laced ’em up and shot on him to get him ready.

“Day to day, I don't notice my knee a whole lot. But just coming up the hotel stairs now … sometimes it bothers me, I feel it, it just grabs me every once in a while. There’s pain in there. I know hockey players deal with pain all the time. But you get to a point where the knee swells up so much that you can’t do things properly out there.

“I think a lot of that has to do with the torque in goaltending. The torquing, contorting … sometimes I feel like if I was a forward, maybe I could get away with a little bit more but it’s just not the case.”

Price and his wife, Angela, put their Montreal-suburban home on the market but ultimately chose to rent it to a Canadiens player this season.

“He was in there a few days when our realtor called to tell us the hot-water tank had blown up,” he said, laughing. “I kind of felt bad. One of those things that’s part of home ownership.”

17 Price Michael Corsetti

Michael Corsetti, age 7, poses with Carey Price during the latter’s Nov. 11, 2023 appearance at the Sport Card Expo in Toronto.

Canadiens home games start at 4 p.m. PT, not that Price will catch many of them during the family’s early dinnertime. He jokes that he’s an Uber driver for the school and sports of his children, daughters Liv, 7, and Millie, 5, each active in gymnastics. Son Lincoln is the youngest at age 3.

“I keep track of what the ‘Habs’ are doing but I hardly ever watch TV. The kids dominate it in the evening,” Price said. “But I’ve bought a (TV) sports package for the first time in a long time.

“My primary focus is my family and my health so I'm just really enjoying being present with my kids. It's been a real blessing to watch them grow up. With Liv, I was gone a lot during her infancy. With Millie, too. But with Lincoln, I’ve been there the whole way.”

Once during a talk at his hotel, and again during a drive to his signing appearance, Price took calls from his children.

“There’s a lot about the game that I miss,” he said, “but sitting in a hotel room by myself isn’t one of them.

2023 fall Price family

Carey and Angela Price at their home in Kelowna, British Columbia in the autumn of 2023 with their three children. From left: Lincoln, age 3; Liv, 7; and Millie, 5.

“I’ll be back in Montreal at least twice, probably three times during the season. There are always opportunities to come more often but with three kids their age, it’s hard to just pick up and leave. I came here just for an overnight trip and even last night, I was sitting in my room, doing FaceTime with my kids. I already miss them.”

Price says he will forever cherish the Canadiens’ 2021 Stanley Cup Final run, the team’s first Final-round appearance since their 1993 championship.

“That was a fun run,” he said. “I was part of a championship team in Hamilton (in 2007), a low seed that went all the way. Our Cup run had a very similar feeling, the whole way through it.”

But the winningest goalie in Canadiens history also knew that getting within three victories of the title might be as close as he’d ever get.

“You’re basically in shock at the end, an emotional devastation, really,” he said. “You're just thinking about all that hard work that you put in.”

10 Price glove

The game puck in the catching glove of Carey Price on March 12, 2019 following the Canadiens’ 3-1 win against the visiting Detroit Red Wings. It was Price’s 315th regular-season career victory, pushing him one past Jacques Plante to become the winningest goalie in franchise history.

Price took a deep breath. And then: “Life goes on and I’m thankful for the memories of the run, but we were that close and at that time, you’re just thinking, ‘Man, this (stinks).’ The Stanley Cup is a goal you tried to achieve your whole life and to be that close, it's pretty devastating.” 

None of the hundreds of fans who lined up to meet Price at the Sport Card Expo that Saturday afternoon, booked by Frameworth Sports Marketing, reminded him of that defeat. For more than three hours, in a private meet-and-greet photo/autograph session at The International Centre and a public signing that followed, nearly 400 fans came with jerseys, sticks, masks, pucks, photos and posters for his signature, chanting his name when he arrived in the cavernous hall.

In a quiet restaurant for a late lunch shortly before he left for the airport, a customer was literally in tears when Price posed with her for a photo.

He had spent the previous evening upon arrival in Toronto not watching hockey but sifting through YouTube videos, researching how to repair his lawn tractor that he’s quite certain has a blown gasket.

2023 price jersey

The shirt off his back: Canadiens goalie Carey Price gives a young fan his jersey, ultimately his final game-worn jersey, on the team’s Fan Appreciation Night at Bell Centre on April 29, 2022.

“I've always felt like I've had a very good ability to focus on my job on the ice. Now, I’m totally focused on fixing that John Deere,” he said with a laugh. “I just get just tunnel vision. It’s something that made me a very good hockey player. I've always been very goal oriented. ‘This is what I need to get done and I’m going to figure it out until it's done.’”

Day by day, a now-former goalie is putting his career in perspective, piecing it together a bit at a time, a moment coming to mind, an event, a save. He’s kept his equipment, his masks his favorite reminders, especially his 2007 rookie model and the one he wore to within three games of the 2021 Stanley Cup.

“First and foremost, I'm just really grateful for the opportunity that I had to play the game at the level that I did,” Price said. “I guess I learned that I'm pretty resilient. I spent basically half of my life in Montreal. I grew up there. The city is always going to be a big part of my life.

“Looking back at it, a kid from Anahim Lake, it’s a long way from there to the NHL. To have a successful 15-year career, I’m just really thankful for the opportunity. If I could do it all over again, I would.

“Just about all the veterans I’ve played with have said, ‘It goes by fast, it goes by fast,’” he said. “But when you're in it, you don't think about it. Especially me. I’ve always thought, ‘This is what I’ve got to do now. This is what I'm focused on.’ 

“I went through my career never envisioning an end. I wish that maybe I’d soaked it in a little more along the way.”

Top photo: Carey Price during the national anthems played at Bell Centre on April 29, 2022. It was the final game of Price’s 15-season career, a 10-2 win against the Florida Panthers. © Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

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