Terrace’s Mason Richey didn’t expect a shot at the Western Hockey League (WHL) — he was aiming for the lower B.C. Junior Hockey League and university hockey.
But now listed as a prospect for the Kamloops Blazers, he is one step away from the major junior league, with tryouts coming in August.
Playing with the Cariboo Cougars at age 16, Richey ranked as the seventh-top player in the B.C. Major Midget League playoffs this year, but he says the WHL still felt beyond his reach.
“I thought it was past me,” said Richey, adding that he was caught off guard when the Blazers called and asked to list him.
“I was pretty thrilled,” he said. “There’s no other way to put it.”
Richey also got the chance to hit the ice with the Blazers early this month, practising with the team since they happened to be in Prince George.
Practising with the team helped the reality sink in.
After skating with the Blazers, “it occurred to me that [the WHL] wasn’t that unrealistic, that I could be there,” he said.
But Richey is not there yet.
Tryouts are in August, and starting next week Richey will be in the midst of his largest championship yet.
Since he joined the Cariboo Cougars in 2014, Richey and the team have been gunning for the national Telus Cup which started Monday, April 24, and climaxes with finals on Sunday, April 30.
As hosts, the Cougars had a bye into the championship, and yet sported a dominant season and claimed their league title in a 2-1 final series against the Greater Vancouver Canadians at the end of March.
Richey says the victory was fun and exciting, but short lived since the team is aiming for more.
“Our celebration was like half a day, and then it was time to get back to work,” he said. “We still had more to try to win and accomplish.”
Facing off with the Cougars in the Telus Cup this week are the five champions of each of the national regions: the Leduc Oil Kings, Regina Pat Canadians, Mississauga Rebels, Blizzard Du Séminaire Saint-François, and Cape Breton West Islanders.
The championship finals are Sunday night, and games are being aired on TSN Sportscentre.
For Richey, not only is this the pinnacle of his hockey career so far, but his prospects with the WHL Blazers only ups the ante.
“For me to showcase and have a good Telus Cup could arguably mean that I’m there next year,” he said.
And if the prospects of playing in the WHL substantialize, Richey could possibly get a shot at the NHL.
“Obviously the NHL is what I’m shooting for… I think everybody that plays hockey, that’s what their dream is, but I think for me, I’m maybe more realistic to [aim to] play [pro hockey] in Europe somewhere.”
Time will tell where Richey’s hockey career propels him, but for now he’s training hard in the games before him and eager to confirm his prospects.
His father, Doug Richey, says the Blazers prospect is a dream come true for his son, giving Mason a chance to train with a top-team and learn from head coach Don Hay, who used to coach in the NHL.
“It’s a big deal,” said Doug. “Kamloops is one of the best. For your kid, that’s probably a dream come true.”