By definition, to play for one’s country is to take the hopes and dreams of others on board.
The two players from the Montreal Canadiens named to the Canadian men’s 2014 Olympic team will carry more than most of their peers along to Sochi.
On the face of it, a quiet kid from Anahim Lake, B.C., a dot on the map in the Chilcotin wilds, and a boisterous urbanite from Toronto may not have a lot of in common, but Carey Price and P.K. Subban share more than a dressing room, a friendship, and Team Canada jerseys.
It’s not hyperbole to suggest they also represent the changing face not just of pro hockey, but of Canadian society in general.
Subban is just the third black player to play for Canada at the Olympics since 1988, Claude Vilgrain and Jarome Iginla being the others; Price is the first player with aboriginal roots to make it since Theoren Fleury in 2002.
“If people see that as motivation, then great, I’m happy to do that. It’s quite flattering, I’m very happy to be in this situation, and I hope it can inspire people, for sure,” said Subban, whose parents hail from Jamaica and Montserrat.
Price spent his formative years on the Ulkatcho First Nation – his mother is a former band chief – and has become a role model for native youths.
Asked what message his spot on Team Canada sends to other aspiring athletes in aboriginal communities, he said: “Coming from Anahim Lake, you don’t think this is a possibility. But, at the same time, you make the best of your opportunities and your work hard. Anything can happen.”
It helps, of course, that both men are world-class hockey players, the label by which they would doubtless prefer to be defined.
They are also like everyone else in that the first people they contacted after taking a mid-morning phone call from Team Canada, were the parents who made countless sacrifices in the name of hockey – Subban’s father used to rouse him from bed for late-night outdoor skating sessions outside Toronto City Hall; Price’s father would drive him three hours each way to practice in Williams Lake (and later bought a four-seat plane to cut the commute).
“For two people who came from the Caribbean and started a family here, had to work extremely hard to provide for that family … I’m sure when they came to Canada they never thought about having three boys play hockey, let alone having one that’s going to play for an Olympic team. So I think they’re proud,” Subban said.
Both men have also tasted glory in Team Canada jerseys – Price backstopped the country to gold at the 2005 world junior championship; Subban won two golds at the same event in 2008 and 2009 (along with childhood friend John Tavares of the New York Islanders, another Sochi Olympian, something Subban said “is pretty cool”).
The 26-year-old Price’s physical tools made him a top-five NHL draft pick in 2005 – the year his future Team Canada teammate Sidney Crosby went first overall – and if he joined the elite tier of NHL netminders with a stellar 2011-12 season, his play this year has vaulted him into the conversation as to who should be called the planet’s best goalie.
Subban, 24, already has a James Norris Memorial Trophy on his résumé as the NHL’s top blueliner, and, in addition to leading the Habs in scoring, is logging huge minutes and taking on key defensive assignments.
As the photo of a sleeping Price that Subban tweeted after the former’s wedding last summer attests – the two were on a plane to Calgary for the Team Canada orientation camp – they are also good pals.
When Price was asked if he could see himself sharing the long flight to Sochi with Subban, he rolled his eyes and said: “No. Opposite ends of the plane.”
“Yeah, that’s not happening,” Subban said with a laugh. “He knows that’s not happening. We always seem to find each other, one way or another.”
Indeed, if Subban has his way, Price will be seeing a whole lot of his teammate in Russia, both on and off the rink.
“I hope I get to room with him so that I can snore and keep him up all night,” he said.
Editor's note: A Tuesday Sports story on the men’s Team Canada selection incorrectly said P.K. Subban is the first black hockey player to be named to a Canadian Olympic team since Claude Vilgrain in 1988. In fact, Jarome Iginla, played on the men’s hockey team in 2002, 2006 and 2010. This online version has been corrected.