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Enjoy every moment…

-          By John Harrington


I had the pleasure of meeting Mason Williams, Bears 05, via Zoom live from his dorm room at The Winchendon School in Massachusetts. He was between class and hockey practice with 45 minutes to spare (no commute = must be nice!). I got a kick out of Mason’s roommate/teammate appearing in the background, periodically, at times ready to answer questions and add some color commentary to our interview. I felt like I was in a Dorm-Room Time Machine, back in my college days, hanging with the guys. Those were the days…

Now in his senior year, with about 94 days left of his prep school career (yes, he is counting down the days), Mason reflected on the steps he had taken that brought him to this dorm room on the other side of the country.  And it all really began at 6 ½ years old, when he found himself at the Ice Station (now the Cube) for some random event (b-day party perhaps) and saw some kids skating. Mason simply thought, “That looks so cool,” and convinced his parents, both unfamiliar with the sport, that he should try it. (Yes! That is Mason’s proud father, Byron, in the picture above.) Thinking that this little desire and passion was just a fleeting moment and would soon come to pass, of course Mom & Dad said yes. Well, that desire and passion only grew stronger as Mason began travel hockey with the Flyers at Mite (8U) and jointed to the Bears 10U at Pickwick the following year where he was surrounded by like-minded players who were focused, disciplined and passionate.  Under the tutelage of Coach Andy Gevorkyan, Mason picked up the game quickly and after his Pee Wee (12UAA) major season, where that team won States, was looking for more at the next level. He never heard of the prep schools back East until he attended the Prep Camp hosted by the Bears. It was there he met the coaches and learned about all the options that were available. He knew this was what he wanted to do, without reservation. However, it was something his mother did not want him to do. And she certainly could not visualize their only child, across the country, far from home (and probably freezing). In my interviews/conversations, it’s very rare that I find both parents on the same page when it comes to this monumental decision. Usually, one parent is all in. And the other parent is all out. But what tends to happen, if the athlete is so committed, focused, and inherently wants this path, the opposing parent eventually accepts their child’s vocation, as it becomes impossible to deny.  And that was the case with Mason. The decision was made, and The Winchendon School in Massachusetts became the destination.

However, Mason still had his final season to complete.  He signed up for Bantam tryouts at the Bears, which can be a stressful time for any athlete, but add first year of checking into the mix, and you have powder keg of tension and emotions. Excited to impress the coaches, Mason took to the ice, and revealed his skill and talent for all to see.  He was feeling good about his game, confident he could make the team. And that’s when it happened.


A knee on knee hit by another player, sent Mason to the emergency room with a snapped femur. This was a major blow that would rock any athlete at any level. Devastated, he eventually had surgery and spent months in rehabilitation trying to heal and get back on the ice. Unfortunately, there was a complication, and the femur was not healing correctly. Mason, disillusioned, had to pick himself back up, start over, and get a second surgery. As the Bantam season left him behind, he was restricted to crutches for 11 months, with a plate and six screws inserted into his leg.  (He still carries this hardware in his femur to this day.)

In my experience, I have seen many a young athlete, after suffering such a horrendous injury, leave the game they once loved, fearful of the injury happening again, or afraid of not being able to perform as they did in the past. It is a mental, physical, and spiritual roller coaster full of sleepless nights wracked by anxiety.

Not Mason Williams.

He leaned into his desire and determination to play again. And he faced his fears.

He wanted to get back onto that ice.

After an arduous rehab, Mason finished sophomore year of high school in Los Angeles. He then reclassified and started his sophomore year again at Winchendon. This was key for few reasons: physically smaller for a young teen at 5’3, the extra year gave him time to grow stronger for the competitive hockey he was about to encounter, it gave him more time to develop into a mature and responsible student-athlete in order to adjust to the higher level of education, and the extra year helped him build more meaningful, personal relationships with his teammates.

I found this to be an amazing perspective for a such a young man, to be able to sit back, assess your own growth and development, and have the temerity to add another year of high school to your journey.  Although reclassification is common among hockey players, most kids that age would do anything to get out of school early. However, Mason patiently bided his time, knowing good things come to those who wait.

That plan paid off as Mason grew to 5’9 his junior year, and now finds himself a 6’2 senior defenseman, enjoying his new spectacular view and altitude on the ice.

Mason’s experience with Winchendon has been extremely positive. With over 280 students, and almost every one of them an athlete at the school (so his roommate posited from his bunk in the dorm room), he shares the campus with dynamos, like himself, with a singular mission; to be the best version of themselves in the classroom, in their sport, and in their community. He’s made amazing friendships from all over the world that will last a lifetime. But it hasn’t always been easy. Adversity always arrives when you least expect it. Besides the shocking break of his femur, Mason has been challenged with a knee injury, adapting to new coaches and systems, battling for ice time, competing against extremely tough competition, all while focusing on studies, being a dorm proctor, serving as Student Body Vice President and Co-President of Active Minds which is the mental health organization on campus. It is here that his perspective and realistic view becomes clear. We talked about how the NHL has @ 736 potential positions for players across the league (32 teams x 23 players per team), with maybe 60 job openings per year as players retire, face injury, or fade away and simply lose their spot to a talented rookie. The NHL is like a corporation recruiting top talent, where only the best of best in the world need apply. Young athletes are consumed with making the NHL, that they are blind to other possibilities and experiences. Mason feels many players look past prep school, Juniors, colleges, and club hockey very quickly, and fail to recognize the joy the game can bring at all levels. Many miss the “here and now” and fail to enjoy what is present before them on their journey. As his prep school years wind down, Mason is now focusing on college, forgoing Junior hockey, and looking perhaps to play club hockey. For him, he can’t visualize himself starting college as a 21-year-old, and feels hockey, the game he loves so dearly, has given him this springboard to finish his education now.  He has no regrets and does not have that FOMO feeling that can get the best of all of us.

It was a refreshing conversation, to hear Mason’s mature view on the next stage of his life. His positive disposition and zest for life is contagious, and will add value to any experience, career, team, or relationship he will find himself in. And you can attribute these attractive qualities to what he has learned on and off the ice.

Mason has offered his email address for anyone who has questions regarding his prep school adventure: masonwilliams24@winchendon.org



Why hockey?

When I was 6 ½ , I asked to play hockey simply because it was cool. Today, when I think about “Why Hockey?”, I would say that hockey is my passion and allows me to be the best version of myself on and off the ice.

When and where did you start playing? Who inspired you?

I started playing hockey when I was 6 ½ . I was inspired by myself to be honest. I saw the sport and thought it looked cool. Boy was I right!


Best Bear Memory?

I played at the bears for 3 years. My best memory is making a little snow fort with the fellas in Minnesota during one of our tournaments. That was a great team bonding experience and I still talk to a lot of those players today.

Nickname among your hockey friends?

I didn’t have a nickname growing up, but my team right now calls me The Thrill. My last name is Williams and I bring excitement to my team, so they started calling me Thrilliams.

Which coach stays with you, to this day, in the back of your mind?

One coach that stays in the back of my mind is Coach Andy. I’ve been with him since Peewee’s and till this day, I look up to him. He taught me a lot about the game of hockey but more importantly, Body Language.

How did you balance studying, commuting, practice, and lots of missed school days?

For me, I learned how to manage my time. I work off of my schedule that’s always changing. For example, if I have practice early after school, I’ll get my work done after, so I have the night. If I have late night practice, I’ll get my work done early so I’m not till 12 doing it. At the end of the day, do what works best for your mind. Everyone is different.

Which exercise gives you the biggest advantage on the ice?  (reveal your secret)

Front Squats by far. My first three steps to the puck feel much faster and more agile when in the corners. Also, core and stability workouts. I use my edges a lot so being able to stay balanced and supported is a must for me.

Where are you playing now and how did you get there?

Currently, I am playing at The Winchendon School. I found out about prep school though the Bears when I was a Peewee. I went to the camp and met the coaches. From there, I went through the application process and ended up where I am today.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

That’s a great question. I’m not too sure where I’ll be in 10 years. I would love to continue playing hockey, but stuff happens, and things may change. I’ll definitely be successful. I can say that with certainty.

Who would win in a hockey fight -- Marty McSorley vs Manny Pacquiao (on skates)?

Marty McSorley wins that fight any day of the week. Manny Pacquiao doesn’t even know how to skate, so how would he be able to throw a punch?

Best celebrity sighting at Pickwick Ice in Burbank?

I haven’t seen any celebrities at Pickwick, but I saw Justin Bieber at the VIC one time. That was unreal.

The longest drive you/parents made for a hockey game?

The longest drive my dad and I have made for a hockey game was 5 days long, across the country. I drove my car out from Cali to Mass for a pre-season tournament.

Favorite hockey slang that confuses your civilian friends?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to explain what “dust” means. Some of my friends would ask how my games went and I would say, “The other team was dust.” after a big win.

You have a Bears Time Machine, you fly back to your first day of Mites, what advice would you give yourself?

I would tell myself to keep having fun. At such a young age, I would’ve just wanted to be happy.

What is the funniest misconception you’ve experienced when trying to explain to hockey players outside of California, that yes, there is indeed hockey in California?

The funniest misconception that I’ve had to explain is how hockey actually exists in California. Not only that, but some of the top players now are from California. That one is hard to get across to East Coast people.

Look at your phone, what is the very last song you listened to? Be honest! No reason or apology necessary (we all have that one song).

I’ll admit, I love Kendrick Lamar. The last song I listened to is called “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst”. 11/10, would absolutely recommend.

Any real-world experience, that made you think “Yes, that’s just like in hockey.”  What did you learn from your hockey life, that has helped you in the real world (school, job, friendships)?

One real world experience that reminds me of hockey is the commitment I put in to my hobbies other than sports. Being a hockey player, I’ve learned that it’s 100% ok to fail, it’s all about how you handle failure and keep moving forward. That is when you’ll start to see growth. This applies to the real world because nothing in life is perfect, and nobody is always right. We have to learn from failure to become better at almost anything.



Ref-less in Seattle with AAA 09s…

The AAA 09’s battled in the Pacific District Championship last weekend for the title and a trip to the Nationals to represent the West. After disposing the Seatle Kraken and the Wenatchee Wild, the boys found themselves in the semi-finals against the Los Angeles Kings. After leading 5-2 with six minutes left in the game, the officials made some head-scratching decisions. Needless to say, the Kings won the game in overtime.  However, despite the adversity, the coaches were thrilled and impressed with the Bears’ performance as all rose to the occasion. A monumental shout out to Ethan Xu, who was moved to defense before the tournament, and was an absolute force on the blue line!

The 8U Freeway Cup…



Congrats to the 8U B1 team on winning the Freeway Cup, 8U A division, at Simi Valley last weekend!  Yes, that is not a typo. You read that correctly! The Bears B1 punched above their mighty weight and paygrade to win the A division! The Freeway Cup was inspired by our own, Byron Williams who saw the need to start developing friendships with our cross-town rivals at a younger age. “We have so much great young talent right here in the valley, we should end the season with not traveling all over but celebrate together.” With five clubs in Pickwick’s proximity, these young players are bound to run into each other for the next ten years, and this is the perfect time to build relationships and support among families. If we can shed animosity and tension early on, we are surely to engender a positive environment for our up-and-coming dynamos to flourish. So now is the time to retire the cowbells and glass banging before you become (the irreversible reputation) as “that hockey parent.”

The Bear Facts…


Before we were Bears, we were Cubs…


The Bears Cubs Spring Hockey begins April 1st at Pickwick! Here is the link to sign up: https://cubs2024.cheddarup.com



Lots of stuff happening at Pickwick Ice…

Camp Chillin’ on Presidents Day, Monday, February 19th from 9am-4pm. This is a fun day camp featuring traditional activities such as arts & crafts, outdoor games, and you guessed it, skating! No experience required. Ages 6-12.

Learn to Skate & Play classes for kids and adults: Wed/Fri 4:45-6:15pm, Sat 11-2pm. Sign up online. Classes offered all year round.

Public Skates: M/W/F 3-4pm, Tu/Th 1-2pm, Sat 6-7:30pm, Sun 3:45pm-5:15pm.

Pick Up Game: Wed 10-11:30pm.

Stick Time: M/W/F 1:30-2:30pm

Snack Bar: Open weekends

Full-Service Pro Shop: Skate Sharpening!

Create a Daysmart account for online tickets and registration: https://apps.daysmartrecreation.com/dash/x/#/online/lakingsice/login




Play the educational, road tripping, mile duster, TimeGuessr. This game combines geography and history in a new way, encouraging players to walk into the shoes of a virtual time traveler. The game requires players to not only pinpoint the location of historical images but also to correctly guess the time when the photos were taken. Can you find the place and date where Team USA won Olympic gold on the map? If not, shame on you. You will not be good at this game.


Read Game Change by Ken Dryden, the bestselling author, and Hall of Famer. This is the riveting story of NHLer, Steve Montador, which examines the intersection between science and sport when he was diagnosed with CTE after his death in 2015. Ken Dryden expertly documents the progression of the game of hockey, where it began, how it got to where it is, where it can go from here and, how it can get there.


Listen to The Leaf Report podcast on Spotify and hear Jonas and James provide their thoughts on the five-game suspension to Morgan Rielly after his feelings were hurt. In this Feb 14th edition, they discuss the empty net slap-shot heard around the world, and debate if it was an act of disrespect, ungentlemanly conduct, or just plain stupidity. Is the hockey code of honor evaporating with social media as every young whippersnapper is trying everything they can to go viral. Does it even matter? Is it entertainment? And are we now going to see pre-goal showboating on the ice as the next generation of mavericks elevates the celly to the absurd and ridiculous?


Analyze the Tooth Fairy Spreadsheet on Axios.com to find out what part of the country pays out the highest premium for lost teeth. Chilling news for hockey players everywhere as a payout drop revealed itself in the data for the first time in 5 years! Although it has dropped 6% nationally to $5.84 per tooth, it is up over 349% from 1998 when a lost tooth went for $1.30 on average. Interesting to note that the Northeast average is actually up to $6.87 per tooth. Which makes sense, as lots of those kids are spitting chiclets on and off the ice from New York to Boston. Why? Donnybrooks! Slapshots! Bad dentists!


Watch German TV is on a different level! Before the Super Bowl LVIII took place in Las Vegas on February 11, the Germans were hooked to another game. American Ice Football. This groundbreaking event stems from the creative mind of Stefan Raab. He had previously captured the imagination of audiences with ice football (or soccer for Americans) and then came up with American ice football. Four teams are in the running for victory in the ice football tournament each year. Each team comprises eight players from the pool of 32 Ice Football participants. The teams will compete against each other on mirror-smooth ice, with all matches featuring players wearing profile-less bowling shoes. This adds an element of anticipation, as viewers will witness numerous celebrity tumbles on the ice. Additionally, an active German American football player serves as the “captain” of each team. Football on ice. Now that’s what I call entertainment.