Cade Mason remembers vividly as a kid, getting to take shots on his professional hockey-playing uncle.
Uncle Chris, an NHL goalie who played 317 career games, mostly with the Nashville Predators, would let the kids line up 10 pucks and try and score.
They didn’t score much.
“He was training one offseason and he let me and my brothers and my one friend come out. We would always shoot on him. He’d give us 10 pucks to score and we’d never do it,” Cade recalled with a laugh.
“He’d let me score the last puck one time, it was pretty cool.”
Cade has come along way from that little kid, now shining in his second season in the Alberta Junior A Hockey League as a defenceman for the Grande Prairie Storm.
He’s tied for the league lead in points and is the top-scoring defenceman through the early parts of the COVID-19 interrupted season.
The 19-year-old Red Deer product is up to a goal and nine assists in just six games – including three assists as the season restarted over the weekend.
That earned him AJHL Defensive Player of the Week honours for the second week in a row– albeit the last week was Nov. 16-22, after the season was paused because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Mason said the uncertainty over the last few months was tough to deal with– just not knowing if the team was going to get a chance to finish what they started.
“It was really frustrating, I think we won eight games out of the 10 we played. The team was off to a good start and we were practicing for months and months and then we got shut down,” he said, adding working out with his younger brothers, walks with the dog and video games helped him get through the shutdown.
When they finally did get playing again– pure joy.
“It was awesome, everyone was so excited, it was great, lots of fun,” Mason said about finally getting back on the ice last Saturday.
After finishing his U18AAA career with the Red Deer Optimist Chiefs, Mason made his way to Grande Prairie last season, where he suited up for 45 games with the Storm. He made an impact in his first full campaign, with six goals, 18 assists over that span.
“I was recruited by them in Midget and everyone in the organization were just great people. Ever since I’ve been here, everyone has been unreal and the guys are amazing,” he said.
“The first couple games were kinda different… after a couple of games, I settled down and got used to everything and started playing my game. I thought I was getting better throughout the whole year. That’s what you want to do.”
That confidence he picked up last season translated early this year and even as tough as it was to find ice time and stay fit for the re-start, his confidence never wavered.
“I just want to be a reliable player. Play in all situations and try to help as much as possible to win games and do whatever I can. Play my best every game,” he said.
With a 1-1 record after the restart, Mason hopes the Storm can keep growing and put together a successful campaign in one of the weirder hockey seasons’ he’s ever been a part of.
“We have a pretty special group here, we’re an older team and I really want to be first in the league and if we have playoffs, the ultimate goal is to win the league,” he said.