The playoffs for Red Deer Rebels veteran Mason McCarty are simply an idyllic dream.
He imagines the atmosphere – he ponders the hype and he craves the intensity that comes with it. Even eight games into this season, his last in the Western Hockey League, the 20-year-old can’t stop thinking about the playoffs.
He’s played exactly 164 WHL games over six seasons, most of those with the Saskatoon Blades. In each of those seasons, what the five-foot-10, 180-pound sparkplug hasn’t seen, is game 73. He technically played one post-season game, a tie-breaker with the Rebels back in 2013-2014. Beyond that, his last playoff experience was with the Airdrie Bisons in Midget AAA, almost four years ago.
So, it’s been a while.
“I haven’t even got to play in the playoffs yet in this league. I really want to do that. It’d be really exciting. Playoffs is what you live for. It’s when things are more intense,” he said.
“That’s when everything is on the line. Absolutely nothing else matters. That’s what you live for in sports, is to try and find your way to the top.”
Rebels associate coach Jeff Truitt sees the veteran wearing that four-year playoff absence as a burden daily, but instead of weighing him down, he uses it as positive motivation to be one of the hardest working players in the Red Deer locker room.
“His work ethic has been solid. Right from the first day. He drives the pace with his speed and just his hard work on the puck and gets himself involved away from the puck as well. I think for him, his work ethic drives the success that he does get,” Truitt said.
His affinity for winning hasn’t been fully satisfied in a long while, but you can see it in his actions both on and off the ice, that his competitiveness is high-level. Even in one of the Rebels routine activities, “sewer ball” where the players essentially play a game of hacky sack with a soccer ball, McCarty snagged the victory and wasn’t shy about letting his teammates know he won.
Through his first seven games in Red Deer, he’s proved to be more than worth the second round WHL Bantam Draft pick he was traded for in the spring. He has five goals so far, tied for tops on the team with captain Grayson Pawlenchuk. Three of those are of the power play variety. On that topic and the hot start, far more humble than the sewer ball victor.
“Just playing the right way. We got off course a bit, but numbers aside, it’s just important you play the right way and do the little things right so that the team wins,” he said.
Truitt however, said the type of player McCarty has been for the Rebels lends itself to goals in bunches. He’s not surprised the winger is off to a hot start.
“He generates chances from the blueline in because he’s shifty with the puck. He shoots through defenceman, he gets puck on the net. He’s a shooter and you don’t want to lose that,” he said.
Goals be damned, the winger is just ready to feel the playoff buzz for once in his career. That to him, would tie a tidy knot on his WHL career.