Carey Price is polite, genuine and quick to engage in conversation as he prepares his horse to practice roping for his appearance at the Quesnel rodeo.
A native of Anahim Lake, Price is better known for his exploits as goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens of the NHL, but last week the NHL was far from his mind as he tended to the comfort and safety of his horse.
He applies protective gear to the lower legs and hooves of his horse with care and meticulous attention to fit.
“I’m the same way with my hockey equipment,” Price says as he adjusts a velcro strap on a leg wrap until he thinks it’s just right.
“That way I have one less thing to worry about when I’m out on the ice.”
Price took up roping three summers ago with his friend Wade McNolty giving him pointers on the finer aspects of the sport and although he has superior athletic abilities, Price quickly realized there was nothing easy about roping.
“When you’re watching, it doesn’t look that hard,” he said.
“You see guys doing it over and over again, it seems repetitious and that makes it seem real easy.
“But once you pick up a rope, never mind throwing it, just trying to figure out how to build a loop is tough enough.”
Now with three years experience under his belt, Price points to one specific part of his roping abilities that has improved the most.
“Staying on the horse,” he said with a laugh.
“I think if you are going to rope it’s best if you learn how to ride first instead of trying to learn to rope and ride at the same time.”
Watching him chase a steer down the arena with one hand on the reins and another twirling his lasso, it’s clear Price is perfectly comfortable in the saddle.
As a heeler, Price’s responsibility is to loop his rope around the heels of the calf after the header has looped his lasso around the calf’s head.
“The satisfaction of pulling back on a pair [heels], that’s it for a heeler to see two feet in there [in the lasso].”
Despite having some success at various rodeos, Price admits he is not readily inclined to pursue roping as a career when he does hang up his goalie pads.
“The guys that are out there are really, really good and that’s all they do year round,” Price said of professional ropers.
“I only get to do this in the summer, so right away I’m behind the eight ball, plus I started so late.
“I think I’m just too far behind, I’ll stick with roping recreationally.”
Switching the topic to hockey, Price was forthright when asked if the loss to the Boston Bruins in the second round was a disappointment.
“I sat and pouted for about three or four days,” he said.
Also part of the healing process for Price was to spend time with teammates that had become like brothers over the season, teammates that may not be back in Montreal next season.
“That’s the worst thing about the end of the year,” he said.
“Some of those guys you might not ever play with again.”
Of course, Price’s stint with the Quesnel Millionaires is part of the town’s folklore and he admits to having fond memories of his time with the Mills, although he was just 15 years old and fourth on the depth chart.
“I remember sitting on the bench a lot,” he said with a grin.
“But I did get to play in Williams Lake against the Timberwolves and I got a shutout.
“That was my only BCHL shutout, in Williams Lake and that was pretty fun.”
Price wasn’t deterred riding the bench and his skills improved once he started working with a goalie coach. Price, who is now 6-3 readily admits it didn’t hurt that he grew some more and added that a strong work ethic was an important component of his success.
That was the one piece of advice he offered to any young goaltenders in Quesnel hoping to take a shot at a career in hockey.
“Once your name gets recognized you have to stay on top of it,” he said.
“That’s the biggest thing because there are so many goalies out there and now all the goalies are really alike.
“You have to find a way to make yourself standout and that’s usually where the work ethic comes in.”
Price, who turns 24 in August, just completed his third full season with the Canadiens. Looking back on those years, he points to one save as his favourite thus far in his young career.
It was during an exhibition match, two years ago, against the Detroit Red Wings.
“I batted the puck out behind my back,” he said.
“I never even saw it [the puck] and wound up hitting it.
“It was pretty lucky.”
Luck they say, is when skill meets preparation.
You can view the save on YouTube at www.youtube.com watch- ?v=jb2YqS8QZq8.