It’s one of the curses of advancing age to suddenly find yourself in the same circumstance as your role models.
When Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price was a callow junior with the Tri-City Americans in 2004, locked-out Washington Capitals netminder Olaf Kolzig came to town to practise with the team.
Kolzig, a Tri-Cities alum who became one of the Americans’ owners a few months later, developed a rapport with the young Price, which still endures.
Fast-forward eight years, and the Habs’ netminder was the one tutoring wide-eyed Western Hockey Leaguers as he tried to while away a few weeks of the NHL lockout.
“It was weird to be in the same situation, actually,” the 25-year-old Price said.
Although the lockout is now over, the Anahim Lake, B.C., native said he found his return to Tri-City’s home in the southeastern part of the state of Washington, where his fiancé hails from, “rejuvenating.”
Looking a little more svelte than in recent seasons (he weighed in a 209 pounds), Price took to the ice with several Habs teammates at the team’s practice facility – all but four members of the squad, Tomas Plekanec, Andrei Markov, Alexei Emelin and the still-unsigned P.K. Subban were on hand.
As you might expect, the session was a bit of a mixed bag for Price, who at various points looked to be reminding himself of his positioning cues.
“Getting the timing back is going to take a little while,” he said afterward.
Time isn’t a luxury the netminder will be able to afford this season – no preseason games to work out the kinks, followed by a 48-game sprint for the playoffs.
In fact that’s one of the reasons, he said, for wanting to “lean out” his 6-foot-3 frame to better withstand a punishing schedule he will share with backup Peter Budaj.
Price is coming off a disappointing season – he’s far from alone in that regard on a team that finished last in the Eastern Conference – and will be looking to justify the six-year, $39-million contract he signed last summer.
Only one NHL goalie lost more games than Price’s 28 last year, although 11 of those setbacks came either in overtime or a shootout.
Indeed, Price allowed 14 shootout goals in 40 opportunities last season. It’s something he wants to fix and has set as his top priority.
“If we’d have won more shootouts last year, we wouldn’t have been where we’re at,” he said.
He’s been working on his quickness and lateral movements since last season, and made a point of practising shootouts on Thursday.
Hockey wasn’t his only activity during the lockout. Price also created a bit of a social media stir by Tweeting a picture of himself and a semi-automatic rifle-toting pal on a hunting expedition.
“I was surprised [at the reaction],” he said. “I’m different than most city folk.”