Canada National Junior team member Mason McDonald poses for a photo at the 2015 Hockey Canada Under-20 Summer Showcase in Calgary on Aug. 1, 2015.
©THE CANADIAN PRESS/Hockey Canada Images, James Emery
Mason McDonald was a good-skating, goal-scoring right-winger for the first few years of his hockey career.
His father Brian said his son started playing the game when he was four or five years old, but it was five years later when he found a home in the blue paint. It started him along a path that is expected to see him wear the Maple Leaf Saturday in Canada's crease at the world junior hockey championship in Finland.
"Right a way you could kind of tell that he had a keen desire to try and keep the puck out of his net and was skilled at doing it," Brian said.
Whether it was playing street hockey outside of their Halifax home, floor hockey in gym at school or in the basement with his brother, it was easy to spot Mason.
"He was always the one with the gear on, so I knew he was going to be a goalie," Brian said.
Brian, his wife Margaret, 17-year-old son Greg, who is a high school football player, and 14-year-old daughter Cathy left Thursday for Helsinki to watch Mason live a childhood dream.
"These are probably some of the biggest games he'll ever play in his career," Brian said.
It may never have happened if it wasn't for the Charlottetown Islanders, who decided to trade starting goalie Antoine Bibeau to Val-d'Or for picks, then move picks to Acadie-Bathurst for Mason. The deals were finalized Dec. 28, 2013.
"It probably changed his career when (general manager) Grant Sonier traded for him," Brian said. "He just wasn't getting the opportunity in Bathurst to play enough. When he got traded to Charlottetown, Grant Sonier and (head coach) Gordie Dwyer gave him the confidence . . . to play."
The 19-year-old netminder has played for Canada at a few international competitions, but none as big as this year's tournament.
Mason, a Calgary Flames draft pick, is expected to start Saturday at 2 p.m. Atlantic against the Americans. OHLer Mackenzie Blackwood is serving the final two games of his suspension today and Monday against Denmark. Blainville-Boisbriand Armada's Samuel Montembeault is the other goalie on the roster.