Blashill: 'Mason was ahead of his time'
Detroit – The news of Ron Mason’s passing hit Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill hard.
Blashill grew up near the Lake Superior State campus and would attend games against the powerhouse Michigan State teams Mason would bring.
Then as part of the coaching staff at Ferris State, Blashill got to know Mason, who passed away Sunday night at the age of 76.
“From a coaching perspective, coach Mason was ahead of his time,” Blashill said. “In terms of systems or structures, he was doing things way before others did.
“And, he was a great recruiter. He had such a passion for the game. I was very saddened and shocked to hear Ron Mason had passed away.
“He was such a huge figure in college hockey.”
Mason, who also was an athletic director at MSU, won a national championship in 1986 at MSU and won 924 wins in his coaching career (between MSU, Lake Superior and Bowling Green).
In 23 years at MSU, Mason was 635-270-69 and took the Spartans to the NCAA Tournament 19 times.
Blashill remembers Mason as a larger-than-life figure in the sport.
“I got the opportunity to be in (coaches’) meetings and his presence was so large,” Blashill said. “I was in awe. It was interesting over the years to spend a little bit of time with him.
“I remember at one our development camps the last few years in Traverse City he was there and getting to spend some time with him, one of the things that struck me was his passion level.”
Jason Woolley, the former Michigan State and long-time NHL defenseman (including the Red Wings), said Mason was more than a coach.
“He was a friend of mine,” Woolley said. “And there aren’t many former coaches of mine I can say that.
“I’m kind of numb right now. Nothing about this makes sense. I talked to him last week, the week before. What can I say?
“The guy was an icon, a legend in his sport.”
Woolley was an offensive defenseman who Mason didn’t try to change or mold into a different style.
“Ron let me play my game and he was a huge part of helping me springboard to the next level,” Woolley said. “He didn’t have me play to a particular system or change me. He let Jason Woolley play to Jason Woolley’s strength.
“I respect him so much.”
Woolley’s sports agency group represents Mason’s grandson Travis Walsh, who concluded his MSU career in March and played in the American Hockey League this spring.
“Ron Mason could have had anyone on the planet represent his grandson,” Woolley said. “To have me do it, it just showed how loyal of a guy he was. I just can’t believe this happened.”