Hockey fans, especially those of the Canadiens can be a very mercurial bunch. They love their favourites with great fervour, but they drop those same favourites from grace pretty quickly if they don't perform on the ice. Which is a round-about way of saying I don't like the way people are dumping on Carey Price. And this is coming from someone who thinks Jaro Halak has been underappreciated and sometimes misused by the Canadiens. But now that Price is having problems with his game, and allegedly in keeping his extracurricular activities under control, a lot of Habs fans and other random critics are turning on him. That's not fair.
I agree with those who point out that Price's path to the NHL has been strewn with roses while Halak's had to struggle hard to get where he is now. But I contend that Price's relatively easy journey to the NHL hasn't really been his fault. He was born in the right country to be seen by lots of scouts, and he was lucky enough to have a father who did everything he could to help his son succeed. He had no control over the Habs taking a flyer on him with the number-five overall draft pick. On top of his natural gifts, he's been lucky and opportunistic, and...yes...at some level hardworking. A completely lazy player just doesn't succeed at the level Price has succeeded.
What bothers me is that, at 21, Price has gone from being the franchise saviour to being a class A bum in some circles, just because he's having a hard time for a few months. Well, a few months don't make or break a career, but the way a player is treated during those months of hardship could very well make a lasting impression on him. When Price turns it around, as I think he will, do we want him to remember with bitterness the way people jeered him when he struggled, or the way fans supported him and refrained from undermining his confidence? I hope it would be the latter, especially when contract time comes around.
But there's an unhealthy feeling of idolotry around the Canadiens that I don't remember there being before, and that's enveloping the individual players as well. I'm not sure if it's because the Habs are trendy and have attracted a lot of fringe fans who treat the team more like rock stars than hockey players, or if it's because so many of today's fans have had so little to cheer about on the ice that they turn their attention to the players' personal lives to feed the frenzy instead. Maybe it's the internet and the amount of time people spend on their computers analyzing every scrap of information about the players. Whatever the reason, we sometimes forget these players are young men who make mistakes and have slumps and who certainly aren't perfect. Keeping them in a kind of relentless spotlight eventually makes them tired and wary. We've already heard exasperated clips of Price and Higgins talking about what a tough place to play Montreal has become for them.
I think Carey Price is a good young hockey player who will emerge from this period of trial having learned some valuable lessons. But I wish Habs fans would just back off and leave him alone while he does it. The trade proposals including his name and the cries for him to be sent to Hamilton (by those who, apparently, are unaware of waiver restrictions) do no one any good, and they'll be ridiculous in retrospect, when Price is playing well and the fairweather friends come running back, saying "I loved him all along."