Paying the Price

CHRIS NICHOLS -- mckeenshockey.com

, Last Updated: 10:54 AM ET

Turn on any sports highlight show and you're bound to see some negative headlines.

Lockout, drug problems, trials and players brawling with fans: they're all out there for fans to see night in and night out.

With all of the negativity taking the focus off the sports themselves, it's always nice to go back to the basics.

Enter junior hockey.

Instead of taking anything for granted, you'll generally find junior players like Tri City goaltender Carey Price working incredibly hard to get to the next level.

Price recently gave a wide-ranging interview with McKeensHockey.com; covering everything from his regular marathon road trips with his dad as a youngster just to get to his team, to the recent Under-18 tournament that Price participated in over the summer. There, he backstopped Canada to the gold medal.

Price, who is currently ranked 14th overall on the McKeen's Top 100 for the 2005 draft, has been playing and practicing under the watchful eye of Washington Capitals goalie Olaf Kolzig this season. Kolzig, who himself played for Tri-City when he was in the WHL, has been working with the team as a goaltender coach during the lockout.

Price credits Kolzig with helping to fix what the young goalie considered his biggest weakness going into the season: his lateral movement.

"He helped me a lot with that," Price noted. "He's (also) helped me with my positioning; challenging the shooter in crowds and a lot with staying on your feet a little bit more. He's helped me a lot overall."

Having a Vezina Trophy winner giving advice on your game is always a good thing, but Price isn't content to rest on someone else's laurels.

"We go over a lot of video during the year," he said. "After a game I'll bring home the tape and watch myself to see how I'm positioned, how I play the puck and just overall performance. It's a big help."

Price's hard work continues after he leaves the rink each day. In fact, despite the rigorous practice, game and travel schedule facing every junior player, Price has managed to maintain a 90% average in school.

In addition to taking a few correspondence courses during the summer to stay ahead, he credits his counselors with helping him a great deal and he says he always tries to keep his eye on the big picture.

"You have to keep your goals in perspective," he said. "If something happens that's out of your control and you can't play hockey, you have to have something to fall back on."

Price says one thing he might consider if hockey doesn't work out is becoming a teacher.

No one knows what the future holds, but this goaltender's present and recent past is pretty impressive.

Price was in net for four of five games in the U-18 tournament over the summer, racking up an impressive 1.25 GAA and .945 SA%. Canada took home the gold and it was a great experience for the netminder.

"It's always nice to represent your country," he smiled. "Having a chance to do that is really special. I like tournaments like that because you get to meet guys from different leagues and see talent that you wouldn't normally get to see."

Can we expect to see Carey Price wearing a Canadian uniform if called upon later in his career?

"Definitely. I would never turn down an opportunity to represent my country."

Canada had a lot of offensive firepower on display in that tournament. Gilbert Brule, who is currently ranked second on McKeen's list for the 2005 draft behind Sidney Crosby, had four goals in that tournament and helped lead the way to gold for Canada. Price and Brule were teammates in the BC junior leagues when they were both 15 and Price described what makes Brule so sought after.

"He's a really smart player," noted the goalie. "He works really hard and doesn't shy away from any physical play either. That's what makes him special, because he's a goal scorer as well."

There's been a fair bit of press in recent weeks about the possibility of a wiped out NHL season and what effect that would have on the entry draft, but while Price says it has been discussed amongst his peers, nobody is dwelling on it.

"I don't really worry about it too much," he said. "I'm just focused on my play right now and not worried about the future."

Price was asked to daydream just for a moment though, to imagine what his first purchase with a possible NHL contract might be.

"Probably something for my dad. He's worked so hard for me. He's always wanted a Harley, so I'd probably buy him one of those."

Gratitude - hmm. Perhaps a few of today's professional athletes could take a look back and remember what that is exactly.

Read the entire Q&A with Carey Price this week on mckeenshockey.com


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