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There is no question that Carey Price is one of the top five goaltenders currently in the world. He’s celebrated in Montreal and abroad for his amazing saves and calm under pressure. It’s fitting that there is finally a book on him: Carey Price: How a First Nations kid became a superstar goaltender.
It’s aimed at middle-grade readers, ages 12+, and has a decidedly different approach to telling his remarkable story. For one, author Catherine Rondina chose to really spotlight Price’s Indigenous background.
“Most Canadians don’t seem to be aware of his First Nations heritage,” said Rondina in an email. “It was the key aspect of his story that I wanted to cover from the initial proposal I submitted. I knew that his story and his support of Indigenous kids, like him, were the hallmark of his story. I not sure why his incredible professional hockey career didn’t profile that aspect more, but I’m certainly happy that our book is putting it in the forefront for kids.”
The pocketbook from Lorimer’s RecordBooks series crams a lot into its 150 pages, from Price’s early days in the remote Anahim Lake, B.C., to leading Canada to a gold medal at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi. The RecordBooks series has plenty of other hockey books, including profiles of players (Bobby Clarke, Willie O’Ree, Jarome Iginla, Jordin Tootoo, Lionel Conacher), historical in nature (Winnipeg Falcons, Kenora Thistles, Summit Series), and nationalistic (Paralympic Gold medal hockey in 2006, Canadian women Olympic gold in 2002).
Rondina met the children’s editor at Lorimer, Kat Mototsune, at an event and she was encouraged to pitch an idea. It helped that Rondina and Mototsune had worked together previously in the educational market.
“The series is a wonderful avenue for reluctant readers and I’ve done a lot of writing for that market,” said Rondina. “The idea of getting young boys to read, especially during the crucial years, 9-12, when they seem to fall away from reading, is an important aspect of my writing career.”
With an impressive resume full of awarding-winning books, like 2009’s Don't Touch That Toad and Other Strange Things Adults Tell You and The 10 Worst Things About the Internet, it’s worth noting that this is Rondina's first hockey book, and second sporting one. “Funny enough, the first book I had published, after years as a magazine and newspaper writer, was a book for adults about baseball. Ladies Day - One Woman’s Guide to Pro Baseball, which was co-authored with Joseph Romain. My Dad was big baseball fan so it seemed like a good fit,” she said. Up next for Rondina? Another RecordBooks entry, on NHL defenceman and philanthropic hero P.K. Subban.
A Toronto native, Rondina and her husband, George, raised three athletic kids, including two boys who were goalies. “I think it’s the toughest position in sport. My youngest son Jude is still playing, so my husband and I spend five to six days a week in arenas, watching games, practices or goalie training,” she said. “All my children grew up playing sports with the boys excelling in hockey and my daughter playing well into her university years.”
When not working on a book, Rondina is surrounded by them, as she has worked at Toronto Public Library, in various positions, for more than 30 years. She has taught the course, Creating Non-Fiction for Children, at George Brown College in Toronto since 2007. You’ll also see her name associated with the Canadian writing community and currently serves as the Programming Chair for The Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators and Performers (CANSCAIP).
All the credits to her name though didn't get her the key interview she wanted for her book—Carey Price himself. “I approached his agent, the Montreal Canadiens, his father and mother and even reached out to his maternal grandmother. But to no avail,” she recalled. “I didn’t let that discourage me from finding out all I could about Carey. In a great stroke of lucky I connected with Carey’s old school secretary and the current principal of his elementary school. They provide to be incredible resources for me. I’m indebted to them both. They and the culture teacher from Anahim Lake School loved the book, and critiqued it for me before it went to final revisions.” A trip to Anahim Lake is in Rondina's plans for next school year.
Wish lists don’t always come true. “I would have loved to talk with his immediate family. His father was such an integral part of Carey’s hockey life, his mother’s unique family history gave him a strong sense of who he is as a person and he had a very close relationship with his grandmother on his mother’s side. Of course any one for the Canadiens would have been a bonus! But I do feel all the excellent sports reporting in North America gave me lots of insight to who Carey is on and off the ice.”
Indeed, it’s not like Price has been a hermit, unavailable for interviews from an eager media. Rondina dove into the research with enthusiasm. “I like to dig for information. I want to feel that my readers are finding out all there is to know about the subject I’m writing about. I read all I can get my hands on. I watch interviews, listen to podcasts and read, read, read. I love to talk to people first hand, if I can,” she said. “I think hearing someone tell their story or talk about a subject that they are passionate about is the best part of relying information. It goes back to old fashioned oral history being passed along. I think everyone has a story to tell and I want to help tell all the stories I can.” Other help came from the the WHL’s Tri-City Americans, where Price played junior hockey, and the Williams Lake Minor Hockey Association.
Rondina thinks there will be a proper English-language biography, or autobiography, on Price down the road (Jean-François Chaumont's Raconte-moi Carey Price came out in 2015). “Carey’s story is a great Canadian hockey story. Beyond that it’s a fascinating look at following your dreams and believing in yourself—and in the end encouraging others to do the same,” she said. “I did, of course, leave out things that weren’t appropriate for the age level I’ll leave that to the biographer who writes the adult version.”
Catherine Rondina with a student from St. Gabriel Catholic School in Toronto, during an author visit in June 2018
The prolific Kevin Shea shared news of his new project: “Very proud to announce the publishing of my 17th hockey book, The Hall. The beautiful coffee table book chronicles the 75/25 anniversary of the Hockey Hall of Fame: 75 years since its inception and 25 years since moving into its current home at the corner of Yonge and Front Streets in Toronto. This is the second of three titles that are part of The Hall's National Treasure Series www.nationaltreasureseries.com. This book will be a premium for attendees at a very special gala at the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday, June 25, and will be available more widely in September.
Two hockey-specific books, and one with hockey in it, are coming out this fall from ECW Press: Cap in Hand: How Salary Caps are Killing Pro Sports and Why the Free Market Could Save Them by Bruce Dowbiggin will no doubt cover the NHL, as well as the other major sports;
Home Ice: Reflections of a Reluctant Hockey Mom sounds intriguing from Angie Abdou; and for the more numbers-minded comes Stat Shot: A Fan's Guide to Hockey Analytics, written by Rob Vollman.
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