It was that kind of night for Canadiens goalie Carey Price.
Allen McInnis, Gazette
The Gazette – Habs Inside/Out
That Canadiens goalie Carey Price wasn’t available to say a few words to the media after Wednesday’s 4-2 loss to the Boston Bruins might or might not have been his choice.
If Price chose not to speak, he would have been helped a great deal by having someone on the team suggest to him – strongly – that it was in his best interests to make a dressing-room appearance, if even briefly.
If it was the Canadiens who chose not to make him available, they did their No. 1 goalie, and themselves, a disservice.
Indulge a small bit of first person: In a previous life 25 years ago, I was the media relations officer for the Canadian Olympic swim team, during the primes of Alex Baumann and the late Victor Davis.
Davis didn’t think much of the media, and vice-versa. But on more than one occasion, I had to pretty much take him by the scruff of the neck and haul him out to speak to the media after he’d had a bad swim.
The media reported on Davis’s world-record and Olympic gold-medal swims. They also reported on him when he struggled and lost to far inferior swimmers. Never once did Davis not face the music, though sometimes he needed some strong convincing to do so.
I’d suggest that he gained more respect and did more for himself when he expressed his thoughts after a loss than after a gold-medal race.
When you’re an elite athlete, in a public spotlight few of us will know or fully understand, facing the music good or bad is what you must do.
Carey Price has a far better relationship with Montreal’s hockey media than Davis did with reporters who sometimes showed up once every four years to cover amateur sport and took great delight in carving him when he didn’t win.
Price is engaging and thoughtful. He can handle himself very, very well in interviews, after good games and bad, and the media treat him, generally speaking, with a fair hand.
I’ve enjoyed speaking with him since before he arrived in Montreal and have enjoyed watching him grow as a goalie and as a man.
And at the end of the day, he occupies a unique position in this city as the Canadiens now uncontested No. 1 goaltender.
Wednesday night, if it was Price’s idea not to talk after having surrendered four goals on nine Boston shots, he needed someone on the Canadiens to convince him otherwise. To come into the dressing room, to speak for two or three minutes, if even on a team official’s watch, and then go his way.
(Don’t blame him for all four goals, either. He’d like one back. The others: good shots or no help from his team. To a man, his teammates and coach stood by him.)
If the Canadiens made the decision for him to remain under wraps, they were wrong.
The story simmered overnight, of course, the usual jackals went nuts with it and the media will try again Thursday at practice to have a word with him.
If Price is not available once more, the story moves a day closer to dying on the vine, which in the team’s eyes is the perfect thing. But in so doing, Price does himself no favours, the Canadiens mismanage a situation and the goalie’s critics have additional ammunition to suggest he lacks the emotional toughness to play nets in Montreal.
Price has again been anointed his team’s No. 1 goaltender. He’s just signed a two-year, $5.5-million contract. He’s faced, through no doing of his own, with the summertime departure of fan favourite Jaro Halak, something that touched a very raw nerve among Canadiens fans.
This is the preseason. Wednesday’s game meant nothing, finally. The usual idiotic fans showed their true colours by derisively cheering Price’s routine saves.
But it also was a chance for the goalie to make a statement, in deed as much as in word – to demonstrate that he has the maturity to deal with a bad night.
It would have been unpleasant for only a couple of moments to express his feelings, and then it would have been done. He’d even have found a generally sympathetic media, which almost unanimously thought little of the fans’ treatment of him against the Bruins.
This isn’t about a slight felt by the media, who had plenty to report about beyond this.
It’s about accountability after a preseason game, about a goaltender working himself into shape after the summer.
It’s about a goaltender who for the short, medium and perhaps long term, is the No. 1 guy in this town and who, like his teammates, deserves a little slack to make his preparations.
A couple of words from Price to Canadiens fans would have been a very good idea given how goaltending occupies a special place in this city’s sports landscape.
For whatever reason, it didn’t happen.
My hunch is that the Canadiens took the road of least resistance. They didn’t push the issue with the goalie, and might well have even suggested to him that he’d be better off saying nothing.
And a goaltender who did not have a career night didn’t disagree.