The day is March 3rd. The Habs finally snap a 5-game losing streak and get their new head coach his first win. The cherry on top? Carey Price played well. Not necessarily great, but well enough to not have been an issue. Considering the way things have been going, that is a start. However, all that was overshadowed with the big, yet not necessarily surprising, news of the firing of long-time goalie coach, Stéphane Waite.
Understandably, the following day’s press conference was a bit gloomier. Despite the team’s win, that was to be expected. There’s no way to talk about someone losing their job in any other manner. It is understandable that now all eyes were on Carey, as he clearly spent most time with Waite. However, somewhere between talking about the firing of a friend and talking about criticism he has been receiving himself; part of the city was on fire. With one short answer, half of Montreal has now been convinced that Carey Price just openly admitted to simply “not caring” about his craft anymore. It feels like 2010 again, bringing back shades of his 2010 “chill out” quote.
The root of the issue is interpretation. A lot of fans seem to think that he intended his response to mean that he just doesn’t care about the team anymore. That he’s just done with the sport and has lost any and all motivation. Whereas I, and many others, heard his response and immediately chalked it up to simply drowning out criticism. He is simply saying that he has thicker skin now, that things like that no longer get in his head. Which is notably something that he has a history of struggling with.
Isn’t that something that you would want from an athlete? You want thick skin, to ignore all the comments and critiques. You want your star players to not be stuck in their head and ruining their game. Especially those that play positions that come with a bit more scrutiny than others, such as goalies. In my books, being able to maintain confidence while your fanbase is constantly berading and attacking your game is a good thing. I certainly don’t see why it would be a bad thing, especially on a team like Montreal.
Now, I know I am not Carey Price and therefore cannot claim to know exactly what Price intended with his response. In reality, no one outside of number 31 himself will ever really know indefinitely what he meant by that response. However, when I look at those remarks straight on, I have a really hard time even finding an angle where I can see any other meaning truly make sense. He knows the kind of scrutiny he’s under, that he’s been under for years, why would he add fuel to the fire? Honestly though, he’s spent his entire career dealing with the same media, he knows what to say and what not to say now.
The second aspect of this interview that I’ve heard many people have an issue with was about his “tone”. Now this angle, and I mean this with all due respect, is hilarious. It is starting to seem as if this fanbase is constantly grasping at straws, trying to find things to be angry about. Why else would people be finding themselves nitpicking at Price’s demeanor and tone towards the press. If you don’t get Price and who he is by nature at this point, you never will.
Price has been here for 14 seasons, and he’s nearly the exact same now as he was back then. He was never a man of many words. He was never the one you were expecting a juicy quote from. He’s always had the same cool, calm and collected composure, both on and off the ice. This quality is fundamentally one of the things that made him so appealing as a hockey player. As a goalie. He never really gets rattled. Like most of the best in the game, he makes it look so effortless. Even after gaffing up the puck, he would slowly make his way back into position, with little to no urgency, just in time to make the save.
So why are people so caught off guard by his demeanour now? You can’t love him for it and hold it against him at the same time. When things are going well, his lack of visual emotion is described as poise, as stoic and as what makes him one of the greats. Then, when he’s struggling a little, this same lack of visual emotion is him proving that he does not care. At the end of the day, he has to find a way to cope with the constant media attention. All public figures do it, you eventually learn to ignore what people say about you. Otherwise those things will affect every aspect of your life, including your game. He won’t admit it, but he is human after-all, although you wouldn’t guess that with the expectations some have for him.
The point of this article, and I guess what I am trying to say here is that I wish athletes, particularly hockey players, would stand up for themselves more. They are constantly put in no-win situations. Take this instance and imagine the narrative if Carey had said the opposite. If he said that all the comments take a toll on his mental health and his game. Instantly the headlines would read that Carey Price is complaining, making excuses, that he makes too much money to be upset. Hockey players should start breaking from their cookie cutter scripted responses and start standing up for themselves. When they see media members starting a fire, instead of looking for a fire extinguisher, I want them to look for some fuel to add to the chaos. If the media outlets are going to write whatever they want about you anyways, may as well actually say what you want.