Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – You could say he was born to play hockey.
When Ethan Price was an infant in 1997 in Nebraska, his family would bring him to Lincoln Stars games.
"I went to my first game there as a newborn and apparently I would be crying if I was turned away from the rink and was fine if I was facing the action," said Price, who would later play for the USHL team. "So, I think from that point, the family knew hockey was my calling."
Twenty-four years and 274 Western Hockey League games (plus other assorted high-level experience) later, Price is the new captain of the MacEwan University Griffins, leading them in their inaugural season in the Canada West men's hockey ranks.
"I don't know if words can describe that," he said. "It's an honour to represent not only myself and MacEwan University but also the past captains that have come before me and laid the groundwork. For me as a player to be named captain is a high honour."
Price and the Griffins (2-2-0) will finally head into their home-opening weekend vs. Calgary (2-2-0) on Friday (2 p.m.) and Saturday (8 p.m., both Downtown Community Arena, Canada West TV presented by Co-op) after the series was postponed from Oct. 22-23 due to COVID protocols.
Price, who has a goal and two points in four games so far with the Griffins, was a natural fit as the next captain of the Griffins after Cam Gotaas graduated from the program, said head coach Michael Ringrose.
"The one thing that I respect a lot about Pricer is just that he's one of these guys where it doesn't matter who's watching, he's doing what he needs to do to be successful," he explained. "Whether it's on the ice at practice, in a game or in the gym or taking care of his academics, he's a guy who does things right all the time.
"For us, having a group that's a little bit eclectic in the sense that we came from lots of different spots, I thought there was value in having a guy who had been around the program but was also new to the program."
In fact, he's the perfect bridge from the team's ACAC era to Canada West. As a transfer from Brock University, Price was a member of the 2019-20 Griffins as a redshirt. But he didn't play his first game with the team until last month in Regina.
"He kind of bridges the gap between the players that are returning and the players that are new to the program," said Ringrose. "I thought that was a nice feather in his cap, too. I put a high value on intangibles and he certainly checks that box. He's an outspoken leader and leads by example. He's a really good fit for our program."
Ethan Price looks for a loose puck against Regina in a game last month. The new captain of the Griffins is the perfect bridge between the program's ACAC and Canada West eras (Arthur Images).
And as a BIPOC captain, Price is also taking on the responsibility of being a role model.
"What I think about most is the young African American hockey players who can see it can happen," he said. "The biggest thing in general with me and my sport and being African American is I want to show younger generations that you can play. There are opportunities. There is no reason to be afraid of joining hockey.
"I think about being a stepping stone to young generations, knowing you can do anything you put your mind to. Whatever your dreams are, whatever you see yourself being, you can do it."
Price was just 16 when he played 79 games with the 2013-14 powerhouse Portland Winterhawks, which lost in seven games to the Edmonton Oil Kings in the Western Hockey League final. Among his teammates that season was Matt Dumba, one of the founding members of the Hockey Diversity Alliance.
"When I heard about the Hockey Diversity Alliance, that was fantastic. Honestly, there's not a lot of black players, so it was very good to see that being formed after what was going on in the States. I played with Dumba, so it's also cool to know someone that started it."
Price is also a Christian and draws inspiration from his faith in how he conducts himself on the ice.
"I can't do anything in this world without Jesus Christ, so essentially how I approach the game is it keeps my mind clear," he said. "I have no worries, whatsoever. When I have no worries, I know I can go out there and play to the best of my ability."
He also feels the presence of his late grandfather in every game.
Tom Price, who passed away in 2019, was his biggest fan and mentor. The former Colorado College player introduced Ethan to the game of hockey as a youngster and was prescient in everything he did in the game since.
"He had a stroke a couple of years before his death," explained Ethan Price. "He was always watching my games on the computer no matter what. When I played junior in Victoria, I think it's two hours behind in Nebraska and he would stay up, watch my games no matter what, get all my jerseys.
"He was one of my biggest supporters."
So is his mom Sarah, who watches all of his games online from Nebraska.
What she sees is a player who is making a difference all over the ice for the Griffins.
"He plays with a ton of pace, works exceptionally hard," said Ringrose. "He's a guy that can be relied upon in every situation and trusted. He's a huge impact guy on both sides of the puck."
Which is how Price best describes his leadership style.
"I've always been a leader and the way I lead is by example," he said. "I like to let my game speak to my leadership – coming in, doing the right thing day in and day out and showing the guys what it's like to be a pro.
"Basically my motto is be a pro, act like a pro, play like a pro – especially when you have endeavours to play pro hockey, you've got to do the right thing."
And as much as he's making a difference for his teammates, Price wanted to make it clear they're also making a huge impact in his life. The Griffins are his Canadian family.
"I love being here, love my team, love the coaches," he said. "The boys support me non-stop. They are my family. I will go to bat for any one of them and I know they would do the same for me.
"They do a lot for me and they don't really realize it either. I don't think they realize the effect they have on somebody, but they've had a great impact on me."