Dawson Creek Junior Canucks goalie Cody Call has learned a lot from a man many consider the best in the world — Carey Price.
While spending his summers kicking it with the Montreal Canadiens backstop at his family’s ranch in Williams Lake, Call was inspired by seeing a local boy living his dream. Call switched from being a player to a goalie when he was nine, two years after meeting Price.
Dawson Creek is just the latest stop on a hockey journey that led Call away from his home for the first time when he was just 15.
Like many others chasing the dream of making it to the show, Call earned himself a job here and there, playing Junior A first in Minnesota, then Michigan, then Phoenix.
Now, although he says he owes a lot to those organizations, Cody Call is a proud Junior Canuck.
He still texts Price, and Price responds when he can. Unless he’s injured, like he was for most of the 2015-16 season. Then, “he’d text all day,” Call said with a laugh. “He must have been bored.”
The story of how Call and Price became friends is intertwined with his family’s two passions: rodeo and hockey.
Call’s mother, Kelly, coaches minor hockey in Williams Lake. That brought her into contact with Evan Fuller, a 2006 draft pick of the Vancouver Canucks.
Fuller is now retired from hockey and a short stint as a bull rider. But just after he was drafted in '06, he visited the Call Ranch to thank Kelly for what she had done for his career.
He brought another recent NHL draft pick with him: Carey Price.
Williams Lake had become Price’s home, after his father relocated there from tiny Anahim Lake near the traditional territory of the Ulkatcho First Nation.
Price’s affinity for rodeo meant he got to know the Call family pretty well.
“Carey got into roping and other cowboy-like activities, which his contract prohibits him from doing now,” said Call, now 18. “It’s a dangerous sport… but, it just seemed like every day he and Evan would be at the ranch just roping, hanging out.”
Call started playing hockey when he was four, but he didn’t really take to being a goalie until Price convinced him.
“The hours I’ve seen him put in at the gym, making sure he eats healthy… just seeing the commitment that it takes 365 days a year to get to where a guy like that is, has helped me.”
One thing Call has learned along the way is that you’ve got to be a good person as well as a good hockey player if you want to make it anywhere.
He wasn’t always this level-headed.
When Cody first left home, following that familiar path many young players have taken, he thought he was a super-star already. He thought because he was on his own he could do whatever he wanted and still make it to the bigs.
Eventually he realized, “I’m still a kid. I still need someone to say I need to do this or that and its nice to have someone to step in every once and awhile to say hey, ‘you need to settle down and focus more,’” he said.
He has that in his local billets, Bonnie and Todd McCallum.
“They’ve been great,” Call said. “They’re making sure I eat right, my sleep schedule is good... just making sure (I) am doing what I should be doing to be successful.”
He also has it in veteran Jr. Canucks goalie (and last year’s starter) Josh Round, who has rejoined the team as a goalie coach.
Being a goalie is a tough mental exercise. That side of his game is what his pal Price has helped him with the most.
“He really taught me to settle down. He assured me that I am good enough to go wherever I want (in the game), and it’s all about the mental side from there.”
Call keeps all that Price advice close to his heart — and his head. Look closely next Jr. Canucks game and you’ll see he wears one of Price’s backplates; the part of a goalie mask that covers the back of the head.
It is from one of the Remembrance Day helmets Carey had specially made.
“It’s a bit of good luck,” Call said.
And it helps him remember: “the crowd might be against you, people might be yelling at you,” he said, but like Price once told him, “it doesn’t matter because I’m here to win.”
—follow @mike_carter05 on Twitter.