Carey Price talks skate, stance and pad changes
Montreal Canadiens star Carey Price caught the attention of the goaltending world when he returned from injury in late November wearing his familiar Graf cowlings underneath his custom-made VH Footwear boot instead of the Bauer Vertexx Edge holder that he started the season with.
It marked the second straight season Price switched from a taller, player-style holder back to the old-school Graf cowling. Don’t expect to see him in anything else anytime soon – maybe ever.
“I don’t think I will ever try anything else again for the rest of my career,” Price told InGoal Magazine. “I just feel more comfortable in these. I tried the experiment twice and it didn’t work for me.”
Price continues to wear the custom True by Scott Van Horne (formerly VH Footwear) boot he first tried during the 2015-16 season but is on his fourth version of a cowling/holder since then. He started with his original Graf cowling in 2015-16, then switched to the VH holder made by Step Steel for the start of the 2016-17 season. But Price went back to a Graf cowling on Jan. 16, 2017 after giving up 30 goals over the previous seven games, but this time the cowling was modified by the Canadiens training staff, who cut out the inside edge of the plastic cowling in order to improve the attack angle.
What many didn’t realize late last season was even as Price wore the modified Graf cowling in games, he was still trying out a combination of True boot and Bauer Vertexx Edge holder in practice. Price wore that combination to start this season, but after struggling early he returned from lower-body injury in late November again wearing a True boot and the modified Graf cowling with the inside plastic cut out.
So why all the switches? Price walked InGoal through his equipment several times over the past three seasons, including the issues that caused him to abandon the trend towards a player-style holder that improves attack angle and makes it easier to grab and hold an edge.
For starters, though, it’s important to understand why Price likes the Graf cowling so much.
“I’ve never been able to switch out of that cowling just because of the blade; whenever I try longer steel it feels like I am wearing skis,” Price told InGoal four seasons ago. “Once you get used to something it’s tough to switch and it’s a pretty unique set up Graf has so it’s kind of hard to switch out of that.”
The advantage of an improved attack angle was too much to resist, however, so Price switched to the VH two-piece skate with the Step Steel holder to start last season, and despite coming off a serious injury the year before, was stellar out of the gate while backstopping Canada to gold at the World Cup of Hockey.
Despite that early success, Price felt the taller holder/steel combination, which also has more of a forward pitch, left him too far off the ice. He was compensating by getting wider in his stance in order to get lower to the ice, which he said negatively affected those silky movements he’s so well known for.
“It was just too high, it made my job that much harder,” Price told InGoal shortly after switching back to the modified Graf cowling in 2016-17. “It was nice for pushing, the pushes were solid and hard, but being that much further off the ice you had to get that much lower and that much further down. It was like standing on stilts a little bit, it made everything a lot further to go down.”
Price even demonstrated the negative impact on his movements for InGoal in the visitor’s locker room in Vancouver after switching back last season. Instead of being able to shift his weight over and onto his lead skate for a t-push like he usually would, Price got into the lower, wider stance and showed how it forced him to first pull that lead leg up and off the ice, essentially pulling his balance away from the direction he wanted to go, before he could rotate properly into that push. It was an added delay in his movement.
“I had to get so much further spread out to get down,” Price said while demonstrating the movement. “So instead of going towards it you are kind of like pulling away from (the movement). I was able to work around it for a little while but it makes everything more tiring, you are working a little harder.”
Despite that, Price still saw the benefit of no-cowling, so he continued experimenting with the Bauer Vertex Edge holder, which is not as tall as the Step Steel holder, in practice. That continued through the summer, along with testing the new CCM Tack AS1. Price still hadn’t made up his mind when he talked with InGoal at the Eli Wilson Day with Price event in mid-August, but started the season with a True boot and the Bauer holder. He switched back after an early slump and the injury, and again said he felt he had to change his mechanics in the player-style holder compared to the Graf cowling.
“It was just harder on the hips, harder on the knees, and I felt I was getting too spread out,” he said, “pushing wasn’t the same, and I just feel more comfortable in these.”
As some have noticed, Price’s skates weren’t the only thing that changed coming off injury. Price also changed his CCM pads – both the color pattern, adding more white than he started the season with, and the calf wrap. While some incorrectly speculated on social media that Price had narrowed the leg channel and was strapping them up tighter when he returned, the only change was the calf wrap.
Price asked CCM to reduce the amount of material, which had been overlapping over his calf.
“That’s all it was, I just asked them to cut it back a little bit,” Price said, re-iterating the leg channel width and way he was doing up his straps hadn’t changed. “It was getting pretty hot. I could stick my hand down there and I could feel the heat just circulating. It’s the same, just trimmed back a little bit.”
Now the only thing heating up is Price. After starting the season with a .877 save percentage his first 11 games, Price has a .929 save percentage in 17 games since making the equipment changes and looks a lot more like the goalie who won the Vezina and Hart Trophies in 2014-15.
For Price, it all starts with feeling comfortable on his skates.