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His rural values run smack-dab into the urban Woke

Bruce DowbigginIt would be no exaggeration to say that Carey Price has been the most popular pro athlete in Quebec for the past 15 years. The Hart Trophy and Vezina Trophy winner is probably the greatest goalie in his generation. Since his epic performance in the 2021 playoffs, taking the Habs to the edge of winning the Stanley Cup, he has been lionized in the province.

His back story as a kid of native ancestry brought up in the North added to his authenticity. His father used to fly him to practices hundreds of kilometres away in northern B.C. The Canadiens eventually signed this unlikely player in 2017 to an eight-year contract extension worth US$84 million.

But the rural values he brought from Williams Lake. B.C. have run smack into the urban culture of the Montrealers who have worshipped him – people like the prime minister. With the recent introduction of Bill C-21 – which would make it harder to legally access handguns while clarifying the definition of prohibited long guns – Price took a stand, posing in camo gear with his hunting rifle.

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Price – who’s been injured all season – criticized Justin Trudeau over the bill, which is described as a “comprehensive strategy to address gun violence and strengthen gun laws” in the country. “I love my family, I love my country, and I care for my neighbour,” Price wrote. “I am not a criminal or a threat to society. What (Trudeau) is trying to do is unjust … Thank you for listening to my opinion.”

Good luck with that, Carey. Coming in the week when Quebec commemorates the 2014 École Polytechnique massacre, the political message backfired. Quebec’s media exploded against the man who was so recently their hero. Price tried to clarify his stand.

“My views are my own, and I do believe in them,” he tweeted. “The only reason I bring up this issue is because it is what’s being brought up now and not out of disrespect to anyone.” That brought the Habs belatedly to protect him. “Carey was not aware of the unfortunate timing (of) his statement. The Montreal Canadiens wish to express their sincere apology to any and all who have been offended or upset by the discourse that has arisen over this matter in recent days.”

Fat chance. Price is now a non-person in Quebec’s media forum. Perennial scold and Montreal Gazette sports columnist Jack Todd was his usual restrained self. “I would have to scan the arcane NHL buyout rules – but if it’s at all possible, the Canadiens need to cut all ties with Carey Price. Permanently.”

Sure, Montreal pumps millions of litres of untreated sewage into the St. Lawrence river. But Quebecois would rather outsiders talk about shutting down pipelines running through their province, because fossil fuels are “not in their culture”.

Canadian sports stars coming up against this sort of political shaming is nothing new. In November 2020, the immortal Bobby Orr was taken to the woodshed for supporting Donald Trump in 2020. Orr took out a full-page advertisement in the New Hampshire Union Leader to boost Trump. The ad shows a picture of No. 4 giving the thumbs-up to Trump, reading, “Trump has come through for Americans’ regardless of race, gender, or station in life’.”

He then added, “He’s the kind of teammate I want.”

The Globe & Mail sent in the goons for Orr. “Neither Bobby Orr nor any other athletes should be leading the political conversation,” thundered novelist and sports columnist Cathal Kelly.

Other Canadian sports media called Trump a “monster,” a “racist,” and “a totalitarian.” You could heat most of the Greater Toronto Area with the steam emitted by their indignation at Orr having the audacity to speak out. Others swore to sell off their precious Orr memorabilia as if Orr had been accused of throwing a Stanley Cup Final.

Perennial Democratic Party loser Howard Dean even accused Orr of besmirching his childhood. “I’m tearing up my personally autographed photo of Orr’s winning (1972) Stanley Cup goal. He may have been a great hockey player, but he is a crummy example for my kids.” Dean added he now prefers Wayne Gretzky, who’s a “better person.” (Best not tell Howie that Gretzky supported Harper/Hitler in the 2015 Canadian election.)

The tell is that progressives’ right to sacred childhood memories surpasses the right of these athletic legends to have political opinions. It’s all about them. (Which is, more or less, the Woke motto. “It’s all about me.”) You can hear them howling, “Don’t harsh my childhood vibe, Dude.”

Orr is said to have been devastated by the reaction from longtime fans. Events have been cancelled. Friends have disappeared. As Simone Signoret once (approximately) said, “Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be.”

Just ask Carey Price.

Bruce Dowbiggin is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History, his new book with his son Evan, was voted the eighth best professional hockey book by His 2004 book Money Players was voted seventh best.

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