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Canada's newest hockey hero is a native teen from a remote reserve in the heart of British Columbia's spectacular Chilcotin country.

Carey Price, the 19-year-old star of Canada's pulsating, semifinal shootout victory over the United States in the world junior championship, did his earliest skating near the small, native community of Anahim Lake, several hundred kilometres southwest of Prince George.

Later, the quiet youngster graduated to the local outdoor "rink," where the boards were nothing more than shovelled snow and chicken wire and temperatures often plummeted to 30 below.

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It was classic pickup hockey. No helmets. No pads. No running score. The Anahim kids wanted to play forever. Sometimes, they wouldn't stop chasing the puck until after midnight.

From that background, Carey Price has emerged as one of the country's top goaltending prospects.

Yesterday, his prowess between the pipes was key to Canada's advance to the gold-medal final tomorrow, as he stopped 34 of 35 shots, plus the final U.S. shootout attempt.

Were the 900 or so residents in and around Anahim Lake watching?

"You bet!" said Rockne Holte, a 22-year-old cousin of Mr. Price. "I'm pretty sure everyone in town was up at 6 a.m. to watch that game. Definitely."

Echoed distant relative Marietta Cahoose: "Everyone up here is just buzzing about the game. It was awesome. Just awesome. I was sitting on pins and needles the whole time."

Support for Mr. Price has never wavered on his home reserve, despite his parents' move to Williams Lake when he was 10, so the budding star could play organized minor hockey.

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Whenever his Junior A team, the Tri-City Americans, plays in Kamloops or Prince George, friends and relatives pile into cars for the long journey from Anahim Lake on treacherous roads to take in the game.

"Afterwards, he always talks to us," said Mr. Holte, who played on Anahim's crude outdoor rink with Mr. Price.

"He's always asking how everybody's doing. He's still just the normal kid I knew."

Mr. Price is not a full-blooded native.

His father, Jerry, a onetime Junior A goaltender himself, is a non-native from Alberta, while his mother, Lynda, is half-native.

But the young man's roots run deep.

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Lynda Price is chief of the Ulkatcho First Nations, and Mr. Price has talked about applying for full native status in order to encourage more native children to play hockey.

He is already a role model in Anahim Lake.

"He started his career playing here, and it touches us," said band councillor Douglas Sill.

"I work with our young people, and what Carey's done motivates them. For sure," Mr. Sill went on to say.

Mr. Sill said participants in the community's recent Burn Off the Christmas Turkey ball-hockey tournament took time out to give Mr. Price a special cheer.

"There was a huge roar from everyone."

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The story of Mr. Price is also a remarkable tribute to a father's commitment to his son's dreams and talent.

Until the family moved to Williams Lake, Jerry Price would drive his son 320 kilometres to the larger town -- and back -- for games and practices at the atom level of minor hockey.

Carey Price has talked about the special bonding that went on during those perilously wintry journeys.

"Driving home late at night, we'd listen to hockey games because out in the boonies we could get radio stations from everywhere late at night in the winter," he told one reporter.

Eventually, the driving got to be too much and Mr. Price's father bought a $13,000 Piper Cherokee that he flew to and from Williams Lake when the weather would allow it.

Mr. Holte remembers those hectic few years well.

"Carey would be out on the rink, and he'd tell us he just got back from practice in Williams Lake. And we'd be like 'Wow!' We played a lot of hockey together.

"Now it's even better. I can tell people he's my cousin," Mr. Holte continued.

Mr. Holte says he wasn't worried at all, as the fast-skating U.S. players peppered his boyhood pal -- not even during the nerve-racking shootout.

"He's always had a cool attitude. It just goes to show: No matter what the size of your town is, anyone can make it."

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