Mason is a nineteen year-old, 2nd line junior "A" defender. He has been playing junior hockey since he was fifteen and living away from home for hockey since he was twelve.
Mason has seen more than his fair share of coaches and systems. He has been able to execute his duties exactly as directed for every team he has played for. He is one of those guys that does not stand out, he just gets the job done, shift after shift, and night after night.
Hockey has taken a toll on Mason academically. He has been in nine different schools from the 6th grade until his graduation last year. Graduation was not easy, and he had to spend two summers at a community college to get it done. His overall high school GPA was 1.8. This season he was supposed to be preparing for the SAT, but instead he has enjoyed his first year off from academics.
Mason's mom called me yesterday asking why he has not had any NCAA Div I offers, like a lot of other players on his team. She entered the conversation with fantasies about Mason going to play at Notre Dame. As we peeled off the doses of reality she became angrier and angrier. "We have spent so much money on getting Mason to this point in his career, it is just not fair!" Mom yelled over the phone.
What is not fair is the fact that mom let hockey get in the way of Mason's education. When I suggested that Mason spend the summer at an SAT camp mom immediately refused, "That is entirely too expensive," she quickly replied. "He always works with my dad each summer to pay for hockey."
Don't shoot the messenger but here are the facts about Mason. He is not going to play at Notre Dame. He might catch a break at another school IF he can get a good SAT or ACT number.
The other alternative is to go ahead and enter the world of minor professional hockey. Guys like Mason are needed at that level as well. Make the free-agent try-out rounds and maybe he will be able to stick. If not, he can always return to the Jr. "A" for his final year of eligibility.
The reality is that Mason may be able to play in the Federal Hockey League, or eventually the ECHL level of pro hockey. But that is it. Is this result worth the seven years of investment in his game?
The bottom line is simple. What happens in the classroom is every bit as important as what happens on the ice. Prospects that are hoping to play in college need to address academics from the sixth grade and beyond. Mason has always been a coach's favorite, that is great, but he should have been the teacher's favorite too.
Mason is an alias that we used to protect the player's identify... and his dignity.