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Canadian Press
Dec 28, 2006, 12:34 PM EST


LEKSAND, Sweden (CP) - Carey Price was climbing into an airplane at the crack of dawn to get to hockey practice when other kids his age were piling into the family car to do the same.

Canada's starting goaltender at the world junior hockey championship grew up in tiny Anahim Lake, B.C., which has a population of about 700 when combined with the nearby Ulkatcho First Nation.

When Price began playing minor hockey at 10, the closest teams were 320 kilometres east in Williams Lake.

So he and his father Jerry drove the 640-kilometre round trip three times a week for practices and games, until Jerry decided to put his pilot's licence to use.

"Eventually it got to be a lot of hours in the car so he just bought an airplane so he could fly it," Price explained.

At $13,000, the four-seat Piper Cherokee wasn't fancy.

"It was more a lawnmower with wings," Jerry said.

Price and his Canadian teammates meet Germany in a Pool A match Friday (1 p.m. ET).

Price's father, an administrator of an adult learning centre, mother Lynda, who is chief of the Ulkatcho First Nation, and sister Kayla are all in Sweden to support him.

Like a youngster who gets to hold the steering wheel of the car while sitting on his father's knee, Carey occasionally took a turn on one of the two steering wheels in the Piper Cherokee.

"I learned to fly at a young age so I got a little extra out of it," he said. "You've just got to keep it in a straight line and go over that mountain. The wind blows you every which way, but you just keep her steady."

They couldn't fly all the time due to bad weather or the fact Jerry wouldn't fly at night, so it was back to more hours in the car.

"That whole time, flying or driving, was a special time because we got to spend a lot of time together," Jerry said. "Driving home late at night, we'd listen to hockey games because out in the boonies we could get radio stations from everywhere late at night in the winter."

The family kept a second car and a condo in Williams Lake for the thrice weekly trips there during Carey's minor hockey career and he eventually moved there to finish high school.

Before Carey started playing organized minor hockey, Jerry took him to summer hockey schools to expose him to the indoor rinks that Anahim Lake didn't have.

Because of the geographical challenges, Jerry and Lynda invested a lot of time and money in their son's career, but Jerry doesn't want to be mistaken for a pushy hockey parent.

"I wouldn't trade a minute of it whether he was here or driving a back-hoe," he said. "Whether he ever developed and became good or not was not the point.

"He liked to play and I wanted to give him the chance to play if that's what he wanted to do because I know how important hockey was to me in my life."

Jerry is a former goaltender who was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers and whose career ended in the minor leagues because of knee injuries.

His father's experience has been helpful to Carey, whom the Montreal Canadiens drafted fifth overall in 2005 but have yet to sign.

"He knows the ups and downs of hockey and he knows how to deal with it," Carey said. "He's been through everything I'm going through.

"His knowledge is such a big help for me."

The six-foot-two, 216-pound goaltender is in his fourth full season with the Western Hockey League's Tri-City Americans.

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