EVERETT – The next time you see the Everett Silvertips and Tri-City Americans play, keep an eye on the ice if there happens to be a delay in the action while the officials sort out a complicated set of penalties.
Amidst what will certainly be furor from at least one set of benches and spectators, you might just see two guys remaining away from the fray, calmly playing catch with the puck across 180 feet.
Such are the unexpected moments that are sometimes created in the hockey world.
The teams’ goaltenders, Everett’s Leland Irving and Tri-City’s Carey Price, may play for heated U.S. Division rivals. But the duo formed a bond stronger than the rivalry while playing for Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championships.
“That’s just the way the hockey world kind of works,” Irving said. “On nights you play each other you’re rivals. But off the ice when you come together, especially when you’re representing your country, you really get to see them in a different perspective. It’s nice to see a different side of the people you’re usually competing against.”
Price and Irving were Canada’s two goalies for this year’s World Juniors, which took place in Sweden from Dec. 26-Jan. 5. The 19-year-old Price earned the No. 1 spot and went on to win tournament MVP honors, leading the Canadians to the gold medal. The 18-year-old Irving spent the tournament as Price’s backup.
And throughout it all the two developed a strong friendship.
“He’s like a brother to me,” Price said following Wednesday’s game in Everett, when the Tips beat the Americans 4-1. “We got really tight. When you spend a month with somebody and you’re trying to win a championship together, that’s what usually happens.”
Neither of them knew it was going to end up that way. Before Team Canada’s tryouts in December, the only contact Price and Irving had was playing against one another in the Western Hockey League, with the the occasional meeting at a Hockey Canada function thrown in.
But after making the World Junior team they were made roommates, where their laid-back personalities meshed well.
“I don’t know what it is,” Price said about their connection. “We both don’t talk a whole lot, we’re both pretty easygoing and we get along with pretty much everybody.”
The tournament began with both expecting to get their shot. However, Price recorded a shutout in Canada’s opening game against host Sweden, and the Canadians rode him from there. His greatest moments came in the semifinals against the United States when he put on a clinic, particularly during overtime before the Canadians won in a shootout.
“I was extremely happy for him,” Irving said. “Obviously it’s a little disappointing for myself, but he played unbelievable. He definitely deserved MVP honors. If not for him I’m not sure we come home with the gold.
“It definitely makes it easier to support him when Carey’s as good a guy as he is,” Irving added. “And I also knew in the back of my head I have another chance next year.”
For his part Price, who will be too old for the World Juniors next year, appreciated Irving’s support.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better guy to have there,” Price said. “He was such a great supporter and he’s a really good guy. It speaks volumes of his character.
“I think either one of us could have had the No. 1 spot and it would have went the same way,” Price added. “He could have done the exact same thing I did.”
Now that the two have won a gold medal together, it gives them a different perspective of games between Everett and Tri-City.
“It’s a lot of fun, actually,” Irving said. “It’s a little something extra to play for. I don’t know that you’d call it bragging rights because neither of us are the bragging type. But it’s fun to look down at the other end of the ice and see the guy you spent a month with working to bring home a gold.”
And although Price received the glory this year, he knows what he’ll be doing when the World Juniors come around next year.
“I’ll be watching (Irving) next year win a gold medal.”
Slap shots: Everett left wing Kyle Beach picked up eight penalty minutes in Wednesday’s game, giving him 167 for the season. That breaks Mitch Love’s team record of 163 set in 2003-04. … Wednesday’s victory also was Everett’s 41st of the season, breaking the previous team record of 40 set last season. … Defenseman Tyler Hlookoff, who was called up to help cover for Everett’s injuries on defense, has returned to Quesnel of the British Columbia Hockey League. … Left wing Lukas Vartovnik, who missed Everett’s past five games with a hip injury, has been cleared to play.