A lot has been made, and understandably so, about Detroit Lakes (MN-HS) forward Alex Mason’s impressive shorthanded goal.
Mason went to his backhand to lift the puck going left to right before throwing the puck over the goalie’s shoulder for what many are saying might be one of the best goals ever scored by a high school hockey player.
Though it has been briefly mentioned on some blogs, there’s more to Mason than just hockey. He’s extremely dedicated when it comes to his heritage. The 18-year-old Mason lives on the White Earth Reservation and said Tuesday he’s a member of three different tribes.
“The attention is great for him, but you also want it to focus on how fantastic of a kid he is,” said Detroit Lakes coach Chris Denardo. “He’s so ingrained in his culture and heritage. He is such a great role model for Native American kids and a great role model for every kid playing hockey here in Detroit Lakes. You see 8,000 people commenting on him on YouTube not knowing a thing about him and you realize people just don’t know the kid or what he is like.”
Sift past the comments about how nice the goal was or the other superlatives people have and you’ll notice people talk about Mason’s long hair with some of them insinuating or just flat out saying things like he’s a girl.
There have been people, many who probably don’t know Mason, who have defended him, his hair and his culture.
Mason said before practice he reads a lot of the negative comments and just laughs at them.
“I just look at it and kind of laugh about it,” Mason said. “It makes me stronger and it makes me want to play harder. I can play hockey just as good as them or maybe even better. Just because I have long hair doesn’t mean I suck or have less skill. I just laugh at it.”
The 5-10, 205-pound Mason has a personality making him easy to like. He’s constantly smiling. He greets everyone with a firm handshake and answers questions with thought making sure he gives people a suitable answer to a question.
Like Denardo alluded to, he’s extremely proud of his heritage and his culture.
There’s another video, which got some play on Yahoo’s NHL blog, about Mason’s involvement with Native American Tribal Dances. Mason said his father, who is also a major powwow dancer, got him on the dance floor before he could even walk.
“Ever since I was born, I was brought up in Native American culture,” Mason said. “It has been a big part of our family. It is just how I was brought up.’
Mason said he’s done dancing for 10 years and there have been dances where he’s been one of a thousand dancers on the dance floor.
When asked if dancing front of large crowds is harder than hockey, it took him a minute to think about the question.
Come to find out, hockey is pretty easy when compared to dancing.
“There are certain steps to the style and sometimes when I am outside, the grass can be wet,” he said. “So I will feel nervous. And if I slip, it’s like, ‘Oh no. I slipped and everyone saw it.’ I’d dancing makes me a lot more nervous than hockey.”
One of Mason’s former teammates is Omaha Lancers star forward Tanner Lane, who left Detroit Lakes after his junior year to play with the Fargo Force. Lane, a former Minnesota State Scoring Champ, said growing up Mason had always been touted as a high-end player.
He said Mason was a big, strong player who could score goals but also had no problem working hard to do the thing needed to help a team win games.
But Lane did say there were some people who focused more on Mason’s heritage than the way he played hockey.
“When I was in high school, we’d go to different arenas and the student section would make fun of him and his hair and it was awful but he handled himself with class and I think that is awesome,” Lane said. “When I was there, in most cases, it wasn’t a big deal. I am not going to name names, but there was one school which was taunting him and did a chant about it. We took offense towards it because he’s our teammate and our friend. Sometimes the student sections would be like that and he’d shrug it off by scoring a goal and then laughing about it. He’s always handled himself as an extremely classy person.”