Carey Price, the winningest goalie in Montreal Canadiens history, has almost surely played his last game in a 15-season NHL career, a knee injury leaving him unable to continue beyond the close of the 2021-22 season. On Nov. 11 in Toronto, NHL.com spent six hours with Price for an exclusive two-part feature on his life in hockey and beyond the game. Read Part 2 here.
Price talks life, future away from hockey in Part 1 of sit-down with NHL.com
Canadiens wins leader says he misses ‘playing the games’
© Dave Stubbs/NHL.com
Just one second elapsed before he stopped his second, foiling Sidney Crosby’s 5-foot rebound attempt.
The last shot Price faced came April 29, 2022, a save on a 38-foot try by Florida Panthers forward Ryan Lomberg at 16:57 of the third.
The Montreal Canadiens veteran stopped 19,302 shots in the regular season between the saves on Recchi and Lomberg, bookends to a remarkable NHL career that ended with a knee finally unable to support the rigors of goaltending.
Last week, 16 years and a month after having played his first NHL game, 18 months after his last, Price was sitting at a picture window of a Toronto hotel, Lake Ontario on his left, his future straight ahead, talking about his life and his career from beginning to end.
“I miss playing the games,” Price said wistfully. “That's probably the biggest thing that I miss about hockey. I always enjoyed the preparation and obviously the competitiveness of the sport.”
The 36-year-old is not officially retired. Price’s contract runs through the 2025-26 season; the Canadiens are eligible to have him on long-term injured reserve while he is injured. He says he’d waive his no-move clause if his team found a taker for his contract.
“For sure, any way I can help now,” he said. “I’m still a part of the team and if I can help in any way, I’m here.”
© Brian Bahr; Dave Sandford/Getty Images
Carey Price in Ottawa on July 30, 2005, in his NHL Draft photo, and in a preseason game in Toronto on Sept. 22, 2005.
Now living in Kelowna, British Columbia, having moved to his native province from Montreal, Price is concentrating on life with his young family.
He has a sterling body of work. Historically, he swept four trophies after a career-defining 2014-15 season, his record of 44-16-6, nine shutouts, 1.96 goals-against average and .933 save percentage earning him the Hart Trophy as NHL most valuable player; Vezina Trophy as best goalie; Ted Lindsay Award as MVP, voted by NHL Players’ Association members; and Williams M. Jennings Trophy for allowing the League’s fewest goals, shared with Corey Crawford of the Chicago Blackhawks.
“Everybody wants to try to be the best,” Price said at the start of training camp for the 2015-16 season, his trophy case bulging by then.
“It was definitely rewarding and something that when I’m done playing I’ll reflect on. But I’d like to try to do it again and like to win more things. It’s just the nature of being an athlete.”
© Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Carey Price with his winnings at the 2015 NHL Awards in Las Vegas. From left: the William M. Jennings Trophy, Vezina Trophy, Ted Lindsay Award and the Hart Trophy.
It was 10 a.m. ET on Nov. 11, Price’s body clock set three hours earlier. He had arrived the evening before and would be returning home less than a day after he’d touched down for a signing appearance at Toronto’s Sport Card Expo. The Canadiens would defeat the Boston Bruins 3-2 in overtime at Bell Centre in Montreal while he was in flight, headed west.
In jeans, cowboy boots, a black T-shirt and windbreaker, Price settled back and considered that he’d not be in goal that night, Montreal abuzz for a marquee game between storied rivals.
He fully expects that this winter, as last, will be a time of missing the game.
“Fall is a busy time of year for me, the kids getting back into school,” he said. “I’m kind of a hobbyist by nature, so I can keep myself busy. But last season, in December, January, February, the dog days of winter, I was sitting there thinking, ‘Oh, man.’ That’s when I really wished that I was playing.
© Dave Stubbs/NHL.com
Carey Price photographed at his Toronto hotel on Nov. 11, 2023.
“On a day-to-day level, I feel really good, like I should still be playing. But then I’ll go do something and my knee will swell up and that will be a very good reminder that it’s not (going to happen). There’s a big part of me that wishes I was still playing. But every once in a while, it's like, ‘Whoa, yeah, this is why you’re not doing it.’”
The Stanley Cup is his only major achievement unfulfilled, with him having come within three victories of that in a 2021 Cup Final that was won in five games by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
His 361 regular-season victories are the most of any Canadiens goalie, 47 more than legendary Hall of Famer Jacques Plante (314), whom he passed on March 12, 2019. He also leads Plante in games played (712) and starts (700), and leads another Hall of Famer, Patrick Roy, in saves (19,304) and shots against (21,059). His 49 shutouts rank him third behind early-era star George Hainsworth (75) and Plante (58).
© Florence Labelle/Montreal Canadiens
Carey Price, with a Jacques Plante action figure, and Michel Plante, the Canadiens legend’s son, after Price had passed Plante to become the winningest goalie in franchise history.
Selected by the Canadiens with the No. 5 pick in the 2005 NHL Draft while playing for the Tri-City Americans of the Western Hockey League, Price put a strong footprint on hockey in Montreal following a run of dazzling junior and minor-pro accomplishments.
Price had arrived with Tri-City from Williams Lake, British Columbia, the Americans’ first-round pick (No. 7) in the 2002 WHL bantam draft. His career took flight with a silver-medal win with Canada at the 2005 IIHF Under-18 World Championship, then gold at the 2007 World Junior Championship, when he was named most valuable player and best goalie with that event’s best GAA (1.14) and save percentage (.961).
Price turned pro on March 10, 2007, signing his first Canadiens contract in the Pasco, Washington, home of Dennis and Jill Williams, his Tri-City billet family.
“It seems like yesterday and a hundred years ago since I signed that contract,” he said.
© Courtesy: Jill Williams
Carey Price signs his first professional contract on March 10, 2007.
Price would win the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup championship in 2007 with Hamilton, the Canadiens affiliate, be named MVP of the playoffs, then make his NHL debut successfully against the Penguins that fall.
He split 2007-08 between Montreal and Hamilton, then arrived in the NHL for good in 2008, going on to win gold in the 2014 Sochi Olympics and being named the tournament’s best goalie.
“Everybody contributed in some way. I think that was probably the most special feeling,” Price said of that Olympic team. “Everyone who was out on that ice when the anthem played had a part in it in some way.”
Price then anchored Canada when it won the World Cup of Hockey 2016, going 5-0 with a 1.40 average, .957 save percentage and a shutout.
He thrived on work in Montreal, at 6-foot-3 and 217 pounds a huge presence in the net whose work often seemed effortless with his superb positioning. In hindsight, his heavy workload probably did his body no favors.
© Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Carey Price with his gold medal from the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
Price was sidelined by various injuries throughout his career but until now rebounded each time to return to action, awarded the Masterton Trophy in 2022 for perseverance and dedication to the sport.
He was voted the Masterton winner having played just five games in 2021-22, all in the final two weeks, battling to recover from knee surgery performed the previous summer in New York.
In cleaning up a torn meniscus, a surgeon discovered an osteochondral defect; that is, shock-absorbing cartilage had worn completely off the femoral condyle, likely from wear and tear and repeated trauma, leaving Price’s well-worn joint almost bone on bone.
Specialists in Pittsburgh subsequently proposed the idea of an additional procedure, removing cartilage and bone from part of the knee and transplanting it in the injured portion. Price chose not to go that route given that the surgery didn’t guarantee a solution, lengthy rehabilitation would likely cost him a full season and the operation could have negatively impacted his avid outdoors lifestyle after hockey.
© David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Carey Price during what was likely his last NHL game, a 10-2 Montreal Canadiens victory against the Florida Panthers at Bell Centre on April 29, 2022.
So he worked through the 2021-22 season trying to strengthen a knee that no longer was suited for goaltending.
“It was tough,” Price said with a soft laugh about those five games, probably the last of his career, four at home and one on the road. “I’d spent the better part of that year trying to get ready to play again but it just felt like there was something off. Every time I tried a very slow, calculated return, it was like baby steps.
“We did that like three or four times to return to play. By the time I got all ramped up to get ready for full-on goaltending, the knee would just swell up. It would get so swollen that I couldn't do the things that I know I have to do to play the position right and play it well.
“It’s always been my character to just suck it up and get through it. I knew I was going to play those (five) games regardless. But in the back of my mind, I also knew this wasn't something that I could maintain for a whole season.
“Every day I’d skate, the knee would swell up. I’d try to flush it out as best I could. I’d take anti-inflammatories but I don’t think they helped that much. I took a couple of shots to try to get through it. Those last games were a struggle.”
© Florence Labelle/Montreal Canadiens
Carey Price in hallway near the Canadiens’ Bell Centre dressing room with a replica Jacques Plante mask and a portrait of team legend Maurice “Rocket” Richard.
That season had its challenges off the ice, too. In October 2021, Price voluntarily entered the NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program.
He would later speak openly about his alcohol abuse and the experience of his treatment, beginning with a candid Instagram post that brought him tremendous widespread support. Admitting his problem and having sought treatment for it had an especially profound impact on Canada’s First Nations community, of which he’s a proud member.
It was a difficult public admission for a man who guards his privacy, yet, as the Canadiens’ most popular player, was larger than life to his fans.
“Over the last few years I have let myself get to a very dark place and I didn’t have the tools to cope with that struggle,” he wrote Nov. 9, 2021, following his release from a treatment facility. “Things had reached a point that I realized I needed to prioritize my health for both myself and for my family. Asking for help when you need it is what we encourage our kids to do, and it was what I needed to do.
“I am working through years of neglecting my own mental health which will take some time to repair.”
Nearly six months later, having played four games in the season’s final days, Price skated onto Bell Centre ice on April 29, 2022, with a sense that his career’s end might be at hand.
Coming Tuesday, Part 2: Price on his next chapter in life
Top photo: Carey Price photographed at his Toronto hotel, Lake Ontario in the background, on Nov. 11, 2023. © Dave Stubbs/NHL.com