Carey Price seems at peace with beginning the rest of his life

BROSSARD, Que. — Whenever anyone complains about the amount of money professional athletes make, my answer is always there are very few jobs in the world that you begin training for at the age of four or five and that you must continue training for at a very high level from about the age of 10.

The flip side is that job, or that sport, becomes such an inherent part of who you are as a person because it has dominated your life for so long. Then, suddenly, in your mid-30s, your life changes drastically. And for some, like Carey Price, it doesn’t change because your skills have eroded, it changes because your body — which has been going hard since that very young age — simply can’t do it anymore.

Price is still not officially retired, but he knows he will never play professional hockey again. His knee is beyond repair; the procedure required to make an attempt at fixing it comes with a high level of risk that could impact Price’s quality of life and maintaining that quality of life remains his primary goal.

And thus, he was in Brossard on Tuesday, in the same building he came to nearly every day to practice, except now he was there to attach his name to a product he will be using while enjoying that quality of life in his post-playing days instead.

It was, in that sense, quite fitting.

“The honest thing is right now, it’s just not going to happen,” Price said. “To take the stress of the goaltending position, (the knee) is not where it needs to be. So for now, I’m just going to continue to try and rehab my knee to a position where it’s fit for life in general.”

Price became an ambassador for CFMOTO Canada, a recreational vehicle manufacturer that is putting out a line of Carey Price ATVs, a vehicle he intends on putting to good use on the land around his home in Kelowna, B.C. Price loves hunting and fishing and just being outdoors, and now that he is no longer playing hockey, he can devote more time to those activities he loves. He compared the camaraderie he will miss in dressing rooms to the camaraderie he feels going on a hunting trip with his family, as he will be doing next week.

Price has already had a year away from the game, but this year goes another step further as he, his wife and three children have permanently relocated to Kelowna, selling their home on the South Shore of Montreal over the summer.

“I don’t think it’s going to truly hit me until we’re sitting at home in December in Kelowna and not being at our home here,” Price said.

Price’s knee remains an issue. He can go about daily activities in relative comfort as long as they are for short periods of time. But anything that puts any strain on the knee is still causing it to swell up. He joked that he felt he could walk into the Canadiens’ practice facility Tuesday and suit up.

But then, he remembers softball.

“On a day-to-day basis, I feel great walking around. I’m very fortunate, I’m very thankful that on a day-to-day basis, I can walk around and pick my kids up and go on hikes and whatnot for short periods of time and not be bothered, be able to go golfing and things of that nature,” he said. “But so, for instance, I play in a charity softball tournament. Not too strenuous. I play a full day and doing that every once in a while, it’s not a big deal. I’m a hockey player, I can deal with being uncomfortable. But even just playing softball for a day makes my knee swell up for two weeks. Just running the bases. So, like I say, I feel like I can go out there in this training camp and make the team, you know? But then I play in a softball tournament and my knee swells up for two weeks and I’m like, okay, yeah.

“A full burden of a season’s load, it’s not going to cut it.”

Back in 2019, I visited Kelowna and watched Price play in a softball tournament. I arrived a bit late for the first game of the day, and just as I showed up, Price was at the plate. He promptly cranked the first pitch I watched over the wall in straightaway centerfield. He’s pretty good.

Price spoke that day about being on the “back-nine” of his career, how he didn’t have many years left and didn’t have the time to wait for the Canadiens to rebuild and become a contender again. That was a few days after Roberto Luongo, Price’s backup at the Sochi Olympics in 2016, announced his retirement without winning the Stanley Cup.

“It sucks that he didn’t win, he came obviously really close to winning, but I don’t feel like ultimately it will change people’s perspective of him,” Price said. “But it’s just that thing you wish he would have done.

“I can totally understand that.”

Now, Price really understands it.

“I think obviously one of my favourites is going to be going to the finals and the excitement around the city and watching people outside with their pure enjoyment of us going to the finals,” Price said Tuesday when asked to name his favourite memory with the Canadiens. “I think that’s something that will stick to me for the rest of my life.”

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Carey Price in the 2021 Stanley Cup Final (Bruce Bennett / Getty Images)

The rest of his life begins now, because that trip to the 2021 Stanley Cup Final essentially put an end to his playing career. But not exactly, since he remains under contract until 2026 with the Canadiens — or perhaps another team if general manager Kent Hughes manages to trade his contract, something Price said Tuesday he would not stand in the way of despite having a full no-move clause.

That in-between status played itself out in a funny way at the Canadiens’ season-opening golf tournament Monday.

“I walk into the dining area at the golf tournament and I look around, I look at the players on the team. I look at the alumni table, and I know just about as many players at the alumni table as I do at the player table,” Price said, laughing. “I sat with the coaches. I figure that was a perfect spot to be.”

Price could have a more permanent spot at that table soon, as he said he would not be opposed to one day working in hockey with the Canadiens.

“I’m probably not going to be in a full-time role soon; I’ve got a young family that I want to see grow up. I want to be present for that,” Price said. “But I’m definitely keeping that option open in the future when they’re at an age that they don’t want to hang out with dad anymore.

“So definitely in the future, I see myself in a role like that.”

But for now, Price has time to do other things, to raise his family and hunt and fish and do all the things he loves to do. When he played, Price would regularly pass career milestones and when he was asked to reflect on his career, he always responded he would do that once he was done playing.

And now, he is done playing.

“I’m very proud to have been a Montreal Canadien for 15 years. I can take a lot of pride in that,” Price said. “You look around the league and there’s not many players that play their entire career with one organization. And to be the goalie for the Montreal Canadiens for an entire career is something I’m very proud of.”

(Top photo of Carey Price sitting in his new ATV: Arpon Basu / The Athletic)

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