Terrace hockey forward Mason Richey ranks with the top-ten players in B.C.’s Major Midget League this year, and is gearing up for a massive televised Canadian championship this spring.
Called the Telus Cup, the championship will ice the best five Canadian midget teams, whittled down province by province and facing off for the national title as the best team in Canada.
At age 16, Mason competes with the Cariboo Cougars in Prince George, which has claimed an impressive 27 victories in the season so far, as well as one tie and two losses. The Cougars are in first place with 55 points in what is the most competitive midget league in the province, trailed by the Vancouver NE Chiefs who have 51 points.
“We’ve been pretty dominant,” Mason said of the Cougars this season, noting that the team’s been together for two seasons now, and has an older roster than many others. He says the team started to get excited after winning so many games, and the team keeps pushing to improve as the momentum grows.
“I think, once we started to win a lot of games, it was like, ‘wow, we could actually do something pretty special,’ especially with the national championship coming,” Mason said. “When you’re doing that well, you just want to keep getting better… We kind of built momentum,” he said.
Richey says his personal highlight with the Cougars was facing Vancouver Northwest Giants in the league’s semi-final in Prince George last season.
The teams were tied after a hot battle, and the semi-final game was down to overtime.
Playing right wing, Mason was contending with the opposing defence behind the net.
He managed to claim possession and fired a quick pass to a team mate in the box, who buried the puck top corner to win the game for the Cougars. It was an exhilarating assist, even after the team lost in finals, taking second overall that season, 2015-2016.
His second highlight with Cougars was scoring his first hat trick mid-December last year, 2016, and the best part was that his gramma Marilyn Richey was there.
“That was her first time [watching me] in Prince George. That was kind of a special moment for her,” he shared. Mason’s parents Doug and Roylene Richey were also there, and it was “pretty cool to have that in front of everyone,” he said.
The Cougars have played 20 Prince George games and 20 in the Lower Mainland, and have eight more face offs left before playoffs.
Everything is driving towards the big national championship, hosted in Prince George April 24-30.
Mason says the Telus Cup is the reason he moved to Prince George two years ago, at age 15, and he’s excited for the shot of his life.
“I’m pretty excited… to get an opportunity like this is pretty amazing,” he said, adding that it’s crazy to think he will be aired on TSN’s Sportscentre channel.“Those are huge channels that you see professionals on and it’s kind of like, ‘wow, I’m going to be on that,’” he said humbly.
Looking at Mason’s impressive season record, it’s clear he’ll make a lot more than just a casual appearance on the ice.
He currently ranks eighth place among the players in the Major Midget League, with 43 points – 24 goals and 19 assists. The top player in the province is Scott Atkinson from Vancouver, with 58 points, 35 goals and 23 assists.
Cougars head coach Trevor Sprague says Mason is a great kid and a solid hockey player.
“He’s a great 200-foot player who plays both ends of the ice very well,” said Sprague. “He’s got the skills of a good power forward who can contribute every night — and he has that expectation of himself — but at the same time he knows how to play the defensive part of the game.”
Along with skill, Sprague says Mason also possesses sharp hockey smarts, reading the ice well and is dynamic when moving the puck.
But the young forward stands out for far more than hockey skill.
“He’s an unbelievable young man,” said Sprague. “Mason is a gentleman that represents his family, his minor hockey association, and Terrace very well.”
He gets along well with fellow players in the dressing room, is consistent and driven to improve and responsible, Sprague added.
“He’s a pretty special player and a special person… his parents did something right,” Sprague laughed, adding that if Mason plays with the Cougars next year, he’ll be team captain.
Looking forward, Sprague says Mason will be a valuable asset to the Cougars come nationals.
“He’s the guy that you want on your team when you’re trying to win championships because of what he brings to the ice,” Sprague said. “He’s going to have a very successful major midget career… a great hockey career… he’ll play junior A, no doubt.”
Mason’s dad Doug Richey says he’s very proud of his son.
“It’s not easy to let your 15 year old son move six hours down the road,” Richey said, noting that it was great Mason had relatives he knew well to stay with.
But he’s proud of how Mason handles the pressure and manages his time well.
“It’s a big commitment, between workouts and practices… living away from home… he does well in school and he’s been on the honour roll since he’s been there,” Richey said. “I’m pretty proud that he can handle all that on his plate.”
Mason also works hard to improve and spends time to mentor younger kids in Terrace when he comes back, which Richey says makes him double-proud.
“He watches the Peewees play… and practices with them on days off.. he’s a good role model for the local kids,” he said.
Now age 16 and looking ahead, Mason says his goal is to play in the BC Hockey League and then university hockey.
“My final goal would be playing university hockey somewhere — still get an education, but still play at a high level,” he said.
He’s interested in physiotherapy or chiropractic work, but isn’t sure yet what he’ll study.
“It’s interesting… seeing how the human body works.”