Mission AZ mourns loss of former player Charlie Price
The players, coaching staff and management of the Mission Arizona hockey club like to think of themselves as a family.
Last month, that family lost one of its own.
Charlie Price, a former Mission AZ forward who had played for the club for five years, passed away unexpectedly on March 23 at the age of 23. A graduate of Northern Arizona University, he was studying toward a PhD in chemistry at the University of Utah.
“This has been really tough for us all,” said Jeremy Goltz, the director of hockey operations for Mission AZ. “It’s really a tragedy for our hockey family, and we’re trying to deal with it the best we can.”
Price was on one of Mission AZ’s original Bantam teams and played with the club through his first year of Midget 18U before playing a year of juniors in Wisconsin and finishing his youth hockey career with one final season with Mission AZ.
“He sent me a text a few weeks before he passed away, and he was up in Colorado at the NHL’s outdoor game between the Avalanche and Red Wings with a bunch of old buddies from Mission,” Goltz said. “He sent me a bunch of pictures and said, ‘The Mission brotherhood never dies.’”
That brotherhood has come together to help each other cope with Price’s passing.
Conner Gavrilles met Price when he was seven or eight and played with him from in-house hockey in Peoria until they aged out together with Mission. They spent tons of time together off the ice as well.
“It isn’t easy, and it’s still kind of setting in,” Gavrilles said. “It has helped us process this having the Mission brotherhood to lean on. Even though we’ve all grown up, gotten jobs and gone our separate ways, those guys are still there for each other. All those guys that came up through the program together, they were right by my side at the services for Charlie. It’s very important to have that group.
“People who really got to know him, like me and all the Mission boys, will remember a kid that was off the wall and doing funny stuff all the time, and on top of that, he was a genius. But at the same time, he would lay himself down for any of his teammates. He’s probably hands down one of the best friends I’ve ever had.”
Chris Eades played with Price from when the two were 13 or 14 through their 18-year-old season, and they attended NAU together, becoming great friends along the way.
“I talked to Charlie almost every day, and there are still some times when I think I can send him a quick message – it doesn’t feel real,” Eades said. “It’s such a difficult thing to handle.
“I think we were all good friends at Mission, but Charlie was definitely one of my best friends growing up, and I think everyone knew so that, so I’ve had teammates that I haven’t talked to in three or four years reaching out to me and making sure I’m OK. It’s unbelievable to think about the brotherhood that we have.”
Goltz said that approximately 20 of Price’s former teammates were in town and attended his funeral and a memorial that Mission AZ held during the closing ceremonies for its season. He said that Price’s No. 78 jersey will be retired by the program and that they are planning to hold a ceremony and memorial game next season.
He said that the tragedy of losing Price at such a young age has reminded him that the purpose behind what he and his fellow coaches do every day goes far beyond developing hockey players and trying to win championships.
“You always sort of hope that the hockey part of what we do is transcended by them being great teammates to each other and remaining lifelong friends,” Goltz said.
— Greg Ball