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Unmasked: Cup motivates Canadiens goalie Price

by Kevin Woodley

KELOWNA, British Columbia -- Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price isn't worried about a letdown or losing his focus after cleaning up at the NHL Awards Show earlier this summer.

Price may already have the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goalie last season, the Hart Trophy (most valuable player) and the Ted Lindsay Award (most outstanding player as voted by his peers), but there is still a big hole in his trophy case to keep him focused.

"Winning the Stanley Cup is my priority and I haven't done that yet, so that's what keeps me driven," Price told during a recent fundraising event near his offseason home in British Columbia.

Price also restored some of his drive during the event, which saw him spend a day with 10 young goaltenders to raise money to help give less fortunate kids the chance to play the position he loves.

Organized by Eli Wilson Goaltending Schools, the day started with Price sitting down for breakfast and sharing stories with the young goalies, then leading them through two separate pre-practice warm-ups and ice sessions, split up by another meal with the kids.

"This brings me back to my hockey school days," Price said. "It kind of brings you back to where you started and kind of puts things in perspective in terms of where you are at now."

When your current status involves being arguably the best goaltender in the world, having already led Canada to a gold medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, and being counted on to carry one of sports most storied franchises in hockey-crazed Montreal, perspective isn't always easy to come by. Neither is a break from all that comes with that job description, which is why, in an era where more and more young goaltenders are training on the ice year-round, Price walks away from the rink completely until the beginning of August.

"I spend most of my first two months of the summer just putting away the equipment. I don't even look at it for two months," said Price, who went 44-16-6 with a 1.96 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage last season. "I don't even think about the game, and then two weeks ago I put on my gear and I was excited to play the game again. You need to have that hunger again. If you are playing all year, I find you lose that."

It was one of many important lessons Price delivered during the day.

For all the advice he shared with the kids about how they moved in the crease, positioned their stick, or how to catch the puck better (that lesson included still playing catch with his wife, Angela, in the front yard), Price's talk about getting away from the game in the summer seemed especially important for goalies in North America.

Carey Price is focused on picking up a different trophy this season -- the Stanley Cup.
(Photo: Getty Images)

The recent trend for goaltenders here has been towards training all summer long, usually with a variety of camps, increasingly without a break from winter and spring minor hockey seasons, and often with no time to play other sports. Even as pros like Price stress a break and other sports, it's become more and more common for kids as young as eight and nine to commit to the position full-time.

It's a dilemma created in part because of a lack of specialized goalie-specific training during the minor hockey season in Canada and the United States, which is ironic since this is when it would be most valuable. Instead, goalies seek out that instruction in the summer, sometimes traveling from one week-long camp to another.

Meanwhile in Finland and Sweden, where the national goaltending development plans ensure access to position-specific coaching during the season, the emphasis in the summer is on playing other sports to expand physical literacy, and goalie-specific training off the ice once players hit a certain age or elite level of commitment.

It's one of many differences between goaltending development over there and here in North America, so it's interesting to hear a top goalie in Canada talk about the important of his time off the ice.

As for his game, Price said there is still plenty of time to get ready for the season, though he has altered his approach slightly.

Price has long taken part in Kelowna skates that often resembled an NHL All-Star Game, with a lot of big names among the regulars and very little structure on the ice. But this summer has been a bit different.

"We are starting to run our skates like an actual camp so we are not just playing shinny for an hour and a half," Price said. "It's nice to be able to do some drills and do some proper things. And once we start training camp, I get three weeks of instruction with [Canadiens goalie coach Stephane Waite] so that definitely gets you squared away for the season. Right now I just want to start feeling good, start tracking the puck, get your bearings back.

"This is just my second week of skating and I definitely don't feel normal yet, but we still have a month and a half before the season starts so there's plenty of time."

Price spent a day recently at a camp with 10 young goaltenders. (Photo: David Hutchison, InGoal Magazine)

Despite the increased demands on his time coming off his spectacular season, Price still found enough to put aside a day to support the Eli Wilson Goaltending - IHG Sponsorship Fund, raising more than $76,000 that will help more than 100 goalies either try or keep playing a position they might not otherwise get to. For all the accolades he's earned as a goalie, it said a lot about Price as a person that he took the time to spend a day with 10 kids he didn't know and support a project started by Wilson, who first coached him in 2005.

Then again, Price seems just as proud of earning the Jean Béliveau Trophy for outstanding community service as he was the Hart, Vezina or Lindsay, crediting the support of his wife and his parents, including father Jerry, a former Philadelphia Flyers draft pick who joined him, and Wilson on the ice coaching at the event.

It's a commitment that left former NHL goaltender Kelly Hrudey choking up while delivering a short speech to the kids and their parents after lunch.

"For me it resonates because I could not have played goal growing up because my parents could not afford the equipment if not for the support of the community," said Hrudey, who is on the sponsorship fund's board of directors. "You get emotional because people come up to you - and it's not something they want to share that they can't afford to buy their son or daughter equipment - but they say thank you very much because we could not have done it on our own. And the idea a pro athlete as popular and as good as Carey would even consider something like this tells you a lot, not only about him, but his parents too because it usually starts there."

Perspective, it seems, isn't a problem for Price. With a championship still missing from his resume, neither is motivation.

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