Mason headed to Italy
Chris Mason put his name on the market and landed The Italian Job.
No, he won’t be acting in a remake of the hit 2003 heist movie. Rather, he’ll be stopping pucks for Ritten Sports of the Italian Hockey League First Division.
The 37-year-old Red Deer native will take his wife, his two young daughters and his puck-stopping skills to Ritten, Italy, later this month to settle in and prepare for the 2013-14 season.
“As soon as our visas come through we’ll be going over. Hopefully around the 18th,” Mason said Thursday.
Mason will likely wind up his playing career in Europe after being a regular NHL netminder since 2005.
He received mild interest from other NHL clubs after completing his one-year contract as the Nashville Predators back-up stopper last spring, but didn’t like what was being offered.
“It was mainly two-way contracts and I didn’t want to go that way,” he said.
“I spent a lot of time in the minors earlier in my career and I didn’t want to do that to my family.”
So he contacted an agent in Europe and let it be known that he was interested in playing overseas.
“I’ve always kind of talked about doing this,” said Mason, who played in Norway during the 2004-05 NHL lockout and has represented Canada in two world championships across the pond.
“I’ve always thought that at the end of my NHL career it would be nice if we could go over and finish out in Europe and that’s what we’re doing.
“I think this will be a great experience for myself and my family.”
Mason was selected by New Jersey from the WHL Prince George Cougars in the 1995 NHL entry draft but never played with the Devils. Instead, he caught on with the Predators organization and finally joined the big club on a full-time basis in 2005.
He was dealt to St. Louis in 2008 and played two seasons with the Blues before spending the next two winters in Atlanta and Winnipeg. He rejoined Nashville last fall and appeared in 11 games during the lockout-shortened season.
And now, with his NHL career seemingly over, he’s headed overseas.
“I talked to a few teams in Europe, including two in Germany and one in Austria,” said Mason. “Once I talked to all of the teams I called around to get some knowledge of the teams. I felt really comfortable with the Ritten organization. I talked to the team president and the coach, Rob Wilson, and they were able to answer all of my questions.
“It just seemed to be a great fit for my family and it didn’t hurt that they have a decent team and feel that they’re pretty close to winning a championship.”
With his daughters just two and seven years of age, Mason feels it’s the right time to take the family on a new adventure.
“Our seven-year-old daughter Avery will have a bit of an adjustment, but she’s really outgoing and social and she’s never had a problem adjusting,” he said. “If it was a different scenario we might think differently, but I just think that she’ll be able to handle it and embrace and enjoy the whole experience. My wife (Courtney) and I also feel that it’s an amazing opportunity to see life and hockey from a different view.”
Mason signed a one-year deal with Ritten but didn’t rule out staying longer, considering the travel and length of the season pale in comparison to the NHL.
“We’re just going to go over and enjoy this year,” he said. “I found over the year, especially the last few when I wasn’t playing much, that an NHL season is just 100 per cent demanding, both physically and mentally.
“I’m at a point now where I don’t want to be away from my family for longer than two or three days at a time anymore. Plus, I’ll get a chance to play again. The last couple of years I haven’t played a lot of games. No matter how old you get or whatever position people might think you’re at in your career, you always want to play.
“They’ve told me that I will play every single game unless I can’t get on the ice.”