It’s March 31, 2010. The Montreal Canadiens just lost a 2-1 decision and Carey Price made 25 saves. When announced to the crowd at the Bell Centre as the game’s third star, a few fans started booing him. That’s the year when Price isn’t winning often and Jaroslav Halak was becoming the second coming of Jesus Christ in Montreal at the end of the season, carrying the team all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals.
After that game, then Canadiens’ defensemen Hal Gill was furious when meeting with reporters: “It’s about time people understand that they are not helping him. They are not helping the team.”
That’s until June 17, 2010, when Pierre Gauthier shocks almost everyone when trading Halak to the St. Louis Blues. The Canadiens had made their decision: Carey Price was the future of the organization. The follow pre-season, Price allows four goals on in shots against the Boston Bruins. Fans at the Bell Centre were just waiting to show their displeasure and poured their frustration on the young 23 year-old and it’s the next day that Price came out with his now famous “Chill out” quote.
Habs’ defenseman Hal Gill came to Price’s rescue. As he had done the previous season, Gill, now analyst for the Nashville Predators’ games, was visibly upset.
“When Carey arrived in Montreal, he was very young. I went out with him. Whether it was him or P.K. Subban, everyone was buying them drinks, everyone was ‘taking care of them’ in town. Everyone knew him. And the next day, after buying him drinks all night, they criticized him for drinking. I found that to be unfair. He was a young man who had to grow through this.”
“Carey spent the summer working out more than ever. He completely quit drinking. He made huge sacrifices in order to become better. Then when he allowed a few goals, people started booing him. I lost it. I was furious towards the fans.”
“This young man had worked so hard to improve, everyone knew that in the dressing room. As soon as I spoke against the fans, I thought that I’d get booed and get traded. But it went well. I think that many respected the fact that I was defending a teammate.”
According to Gill, the two had since developed a tighter bond. They went out together after that famous pre-season game. Price admitted that he found the situation frustrating. The former Habs’ defender thinks that this event changed Price.
“Through it wall, he learned to be himself. Now more than ever, that’s what he’s doing. No matter the positive on negative comments, he can’t change who he is. He must do his own things. I have learned a lot about myself through that experience, and him as well, I think. He’s a good person, he does things his way, and the team respects that. I wish everyone in Montreal respect him for it too.”
Gill recalls the first time he saw Price, he was surprised by his imposing stature. Then, by his relaxed attitude.
“I thought that it was fascinating that such a ferocious competitor could be so calm at the same time. Being one of his defensemen was a privilege. He was calm and always in control. When he told you something, you knew that he was serious, but he didn’t have to yell. He was losing control from time to time by breaking his stick, but never towards his teammates.”
Finally, Gill knew all he had to know about Price when Halak took over the job of number one during the playoffs. Their post-season conversation is well known: Gill asked Price if he was looking forward to leaving. Price told him that he wanted to stay, that he wanted to be successful in Montreal.
“He went through a rough patch when Halak took over the job in the playoffs. You cannot be a better teammate than he was. He accepted his fate. He was excellent. It was a huge test for him. I loved seeing him get back up from it and I have the utmost respect for him.”
Price has now tied the great Jacques Plante with his all-time team leading 314th career win in a Habs’ uniform. With his next win, he will lead all goaltenders who have worn the Canadiens’ jersey. Eight years later, it’s impossible to doubt it, Price kept his word.
Translated from an amazing article in French by JF Tremblay in lapresse.ca, with their permission.