Ron Mason - 2004 Legend of College Hockey
When he left the bench for the last time in March of 2002, Ron Mason’s illustrious coaching career was best summarized with a single digit number: 1. He was college hockey’s all-time winningest coach, posting 924 victories over a 36-year career.
It all began when the native of Blyth, Ontario left Canadian junior hockey to pursue his student-athlete opportunities at St. Lawrence University in upstate New York, where he played for three years leading the Saints in scoring twice and earning back-to-back first-team ECAC honors.
Coaching became his calling and in 1966, with a Masters in Physical Education in hand, Mason started up the hockey program for fledgling NAIA member Lake Superior State. He coached there for seven seasons, culminating in the 1972 NAIA national championship.
Two new endeavors followed. A move to Bowling Green University as head coach and helping to create the brand new Central Collegiate Hockey Association. In six seasons with the Ohio school, Mason won three CCHA regular season titles, three straight CCHA playoff titles and made it to three consecutive NCAA tournaments. His final season of 1978-79 with Bowling Green, was capped by an NCAA record 37 wins – a record that would stand until 1984-85 when the Michigan State Spartans, under his coaching tutelage, broke his own record with 38 wins.
And it is at Michigan State where Mason gained his lasting legacy. For the next 23 years, he would pile up 635 Spartan wins, seven CCHA regular season titles and another ten playoff championships, as well as 19 trips in his final 21 years to the NCAA national tournament, including seven appearances in the Frozen Four. Mason’s second career national title came in 1986 with the Spartans.
Along the way, Mason has coached three Hobey Baker Award winners, an additional ten Hobey top ten finalists, 37 All Americans, 20 players who represented their countries in the Olympics and a who’s who list of NHL’ers including 21 players who have spent ten-plus seasons competing at the NHL level.
Upon stepping down as coach of Spartan hockey, Mason became Michigan State’s Athletic Director spearheading moves to upgrade the Spartan football stadium and working on the creation of college sports grandest TV network, the Big Ten Network. Mason retired from the world of athletics in 2008.
The accolades followed Mason. He was named CCHA coach of the year six times and was national coach of the year in 1992. For his contributions to the CCHA, the circuit named their playoff tournament trophy the Mason Cup in 2000-01. He was inducted into the Michigan State Hall of Fame in 2002, the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame (1994), the Lake Superior Sports Hall of Fame (1996), the St. Lawrence Sports Hall of Fame (1999) and received the ultimate honor when the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame named him an inductee on December 2, 2013. His record of career wins was just recently surpassed when Boston College’s Jerry York earned his 925th career win earlier in 2013.