When Mason Raymond decided to leave college in 2007 and sign a professional contract, it caused a media frenzy about the lesser known Canucks 2005 second round draft pick.
From the town of Cochrane, Alberta, Raymond grew up under the influence of the traditional hockey culture but he also grew up helping his dad on the farm - something not all hockey players have on their resumes.
At 18 years old, Raymond moved four hours away to play for the Camrose Kodiacs of the Alberta Junior Hockey League for two years before joining the University of Minnesota Duluth. The Kodiacs retired Raymond's jersey at the beginning of the year, honouring his impact on the team during his stint.
Raymond shares his tales from his journey to the NHL.
How old were you when you received your first pair of skates?
Probably three or four years old maybe. I don’t remember a thing about that.
I don’t remember a specific time when I was just starting to skate but I remember spending lots of time on the outdoor rink in the backyard. I like to think I’m the best then but I was just a little guy having some fun out on the pond but I don’t think I first started skating until I was about five.
What was your first hockey team?
Cochrane something but I don’t remember what they were – just one of the teams in Cochrane. Actually, I do remember one of the teams – IYF, In Your Face we called ourselves but I don’t know why.
I always remember when we were at tournaments aside from the hockey, we would always take our mini sticks into the hallways of the hotels and play there. There was always something going on – a battle or a bruise – always getting into trouble by their parents for staying up or burning holes in the knees of their pants.
Growing up, the rink was my…
Home away from home
How did you get into hockey?
I think my dad just got me into it and it just kind of happened – before I knew it, I was playing hockey.
What role did your family take in helping you get to where you are now?
They’ve been my biggest support system since day one right up to now. I still look to my dad for advice – if he’s got something to say then I’m all ears.
What is the best advice you’ve received?
Just go out there and have fun. If you work your hardest and do things that you’re good at, enjoy the game, things will be okay.
What advice would you give to someone trying to follow in your shoes?
I know it’s a cliché but just never give up. For me, it was one thing when I was in midget, I wasn’t sure if I was going to move on but I got an opportunity and got some doors open so it worked out that way for me. So, never give up, always live your dream and live it to the fullest.
I think you get to a point in hockey, where you don’t know what’s going to happen or anytime but for me in hockey, I just got more opportunities to play and continued to play and here I am now.
What is your proudest hockey moment so far?
My first NHL game is something I’ll never forget - that’s something you dream of. That whole day was just a blur and surreal because it’s something that you dream of so to have it actually come true is a special memory of mine.
I couldn’t believe it was something that was actually happening because you grow up watching it and idolizing guys that you’re playing with and against so it’s something special.
What was hockey like growing up in your hometown?
It was just like any small town in the prairies – when it’s cold out, it’s hockey time. It was definitely a big part of my life and the community’s.
What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome to get to the NHL?
Probably myself. I faced a lot of adversity and having to go through tests and battles to get here. For me, it was trying to find out who I am and how far I can push myself.
Do you ever still get the feeling like this is unbelievable that you've made it here?
Yes, of course and you still have to pinch yourself sometimes. You play against guys you grow up idolizing and they’re your role models. I’m lucky to play a game for a living and I enjoy it everyday because it’s something I love to do.