The thirteen goaltenders that took to ice this weekend in Calgary for Hockey Canada’s second annual Program of Excellence goaltending camp got a special treat when they were joined on the ice by goaltender Chris Mason of the Nashville Predators.
Mason, a native of nearby Red Deer, AB and a member of Team Canada at the last two IIHF World Hockey Championships, was extremely impressed with what he saw on the ice at Norma Bush Arena this weekend, from both the goaltenders and the instructors.
“I’m really glad that I got a chance to come out and work with the guys they had here,” Mason said following Sunday’s final on-ice session. “When I was in Junior we had virtually no instruction, and now, with all the knowledge and skills these guys have, the instructors are really top notch.”
Although he never took part in any step of Hockey Canada’s Program of Excellence – World Under-17 Challenge, National Under-18 Team and National Junior Team – Mason says he is a huge proponent of the program and what it can do for the career of a young goaltender.
This weekend’s camp featured seven goaltenders in the running for a spot on the National Junior Team for 2008, and six who will battle for a spot on the National Under-18 Team, but Mason says he saw no competitive feelings between goaltenders.
“I think this I such a great idea that Hockey Canada does this. You get to go (to camp) with the best players in the country and see the guys you wouldn’t normally get to see,” he says. “You see the competition, but all of these guys got along great, and they’re buddies in the dressing room. I think they learned a lot and had a great time.”
Having been to a pair of world championships and seeing the strength of Canada’s goaltending, and now having seen the up-and-coming goaltenders Canada has to offer, Mason is excited about the future of Canadian hockey between the pipes.
“It’s extremely strong,” he says. “That has always been Canada’s strong suit, and I think it’s going to continue to be. Other countries don’t have the luxury of having so many guys to choose from, they’re just kind of stuck with a couple guys, so that bodes well for our chances in international competitions.”