On March 2, 2017 Mason Mitchell, a local Alberta Hockey player signed a 2-year entry level contract with the NHL’s Washington Capitals. It’s a very interesting story, as just 3 years ago Mason was playing for the AJHL Calgary Mustangs. Terry Mitchell, Mason’s father, agreed to sit down with me and talk about Mason’s experience and how Roller Hockey played a major part in developing him into the player he is today.
Mason discovered Roller Hockey in 2001 at 7 years old playing against the local kids in the crescent. In 2005 the family signed him up for competitive roller:
“That’s when his skill development really started to take off. Roller Hockey is such an open game, it always pushes you to work on your stickhandling and skating so you can buy yourself time and space. Playing Roller Hockey was the best thing he ever did to boost and hone his skills. Roller Hockey is just so much fun, relaxed atmosphere, refreshing for a parent and the kids”.
Mason continued to excel at the sport. He started to get involved in as many opportunities as possible; travel teams, multiple leagues, native hockey provincials, etc. During the spring, it was all roller hockey. Starting at 12 years old the championships started to add up. The most memorable experience was in 2010 when he traveled to Chicago for State Wars 6:
“Mason was an underage on the team that year, so he was very fortunate to make it. That season was a turning point for him. This was his first opportunity to travel on his own with an elite group like Team Alberta. The team-mates, the travel, the tournament all of it combined raised his confidence and ability to another level. Mason’s play was so impressive at the tournament that he was approached to play Roller Hockey under a scholarship at Bethel University in Tennessee.”
In 2010 the turning point in Mason’s Ice Hockey career was about to happen. The competitive spirit that had gripped him during State Wars 6 was now entrenched and going to create some challenges for him. Mason made the Midget AA team his 2nd year. Midway through the year the coaching staff called Mason into the room for a meeting (Terry followed):
“I wasn’t really sure what this meeting was about, I was absolutely shocked when the coaches told me and Mason that they were suspending him from the team as they could not properly manage his truculent style of play. I looked at Mason as we left the dressing room and said guess we are finished with ice hockey? He didn’t respond. A few weeks later I come home from work and my wife tells me Mason went to hockey. I’m assuming he is playing at the outdoor rink or something. I found out that he was driving himself to the games, sitting in the stands with his equipment and cheering on his teammates with the other parents. After 10 games Mason’s coaches couldn’t handle the pressure from the parents and asked Mason to rejoin the team for the remainder of the season. The following year Mason tried out for the Calgary Midget AAA NorthStars and made it.”
While he was excelling at hockey one of his goals was always to get an education through hockey; to set himself up in life. The offer was still there for Mason to move to Tennessee on the scholarship. There were other educational opportunities closer to home so the family had some tough decisions to make. Mason and his family decided the best option was for him to upgrade and prep for university/college in Canada. After Midget AAA, he headed out to Vancouver Island to play Junior A for the Nanaimo Clippers. In 2014, he came back to Calgary to play for the Junior Mustangs. Towards the end of the year he was approached by the Buffalo Sabres to attend their development camp. It was a wonderful surprise and Mason and his family were and still are very thankful.
“At this point the family realized there might be a future for Mason in professional hockey.” After the Buffalo Camp, Mason was offered a contract for their minor league affiliate. He deferred so he could seek out an opportunity to play hockey for post-secondary. Mason was accepted to the University of Anchorage Alaska on a partial scholarship. After his first year at Alaska the Los Angeles Kings invited him to their development camp. Once again Mason was offered a contract to their minor league affiliate. He decided it would be better to return to school. After his second year he was then approached by the Washington Capitals to attend their camp. He was once again offered a contract. But this time was different. He was offered an NHL entry level contract.
Roller Hockey provided a very strong foundation for later in life. “Roller Hockey had such a tremendous benefit for Mason’s development that we had the website Elite Hockey Prospects acknowledge on his personal profile his inline playing history.”
In closing, it is important to note that Mason and family are very thankful to his team-mates, coaches and all teams that have made these opportunities possible. It’s not how you start, it’s how you end!!