Manitoba can stroke another line through the tally of NCAA commitments over the past week. Much like that of Winnipeg’s Carter Loney and Decker’s Owen Murray, Winnipeg product Mason Waite has put pen to paper on his National Letter of Intent, officially committing himself to the Division I St. Lawrence University Skating Saints, beginning in the fall of 2021.
“Getting the call from St. Lawrence was really exciting,” Waite told Game On. “Playing down south has definitely been a dream of mine for a lot of years now. So when they came up with the offer for the scholarship I was actually speechless. I remember them asking me how I felt about it and I just couldn’t even comprehend it or get a sentence out. But it’s a great school with great facilities and I really like the people there, so I’m excited to get things started next year.
After talking with a number of schools the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and those conversations were put on momentary hold. During that time, Waite also underwent treatments to cure him from testicular cancer – something he spoke passionately about earlier this year. But according to the former Winnipeg Twins Peewee defenceman, the offer from the Skating Saints actually caught him off guard.
“I’m super excited to go to St. Lawrence next year,” he said. “The call came so out of the blue, which is why I was so speechless. I personally hadn’t been talking to them a great deal in the summer as they knew I was recovering and wanted to give me my space. I think they did a lot of talking with my coach here in Prince George. In all honesty, I think he kind of knew before I did. All three of the coaches talked to me on Zoom for about half an hour and then they offered me the scholarship.”
Although verbally committing on that Zoom call back in August and physically eligible to play within the ECAC for the 2020-21 season, the second year defenceman has chosen to remain with the British Columbia Hockey League’s Prince George Spruce Kings this season, where he has stepped into the role of team captain.
“Coming back as the only returning 20-year-old, I knew there was definitely a slight chance,” Waite reflected. “I thought that I might get to wear a letter, but getting the ‘C’ was a little bit of a surprise and also really exciting. I know one area of my game that I need to work on is the mental side of things and more primarily, leadership. So to get the opportunity to be the captain this year is definitely a good opportunity for me to grow into a leader.”
The 6-foot-2, 195-pound blueliner enjoyed a productive 2019-20 campaign with the Spruce Kings, where he put up seven goals – four of which came on the power play – and 22 assists for 29 points, to go alongside 22 penalty minutes in 51 games in his first taste of BCHL action with Prince George.
“The BCHL has been great for me,” Waite said. “Looking back on it last year, all the rinks are really nice. I have played in almost all the rinks in Manitoba, all the rinks in Alberta and obviously all the rinks in BC. But I’ve gotta say, BC has the nicest facilities and from top to bottom it’s the best league in Canada. It’s really fast-paced, especially with all the Americans coming up to play. Kids understand that it’s the place you want to be, so you’ve got guys from all over Canada here. BC itself is just a beautiful province, so it’s just been a really good experience for me, to get to see a different part of Canada other than just the plains.”
Now comfortably settled back in with his Prince George teammates, Waite has been taking part in an extended BCHL exhibition season with the Spruce Kings, where the only Manitoban on the squad has put up three goals and four points in six contests thus far. But more importantly, he has one power play goal, one shorthanded goal, one game-winning goal and one shorthanded assist – clearly showing he can get the job done in any facet of the game.
“I’ve been here since the end of September when camp started and we’ve been practicing and playing exhibition games for the past seven weeks,” he said. “Everything has been pretty normal for us, aside from the no fans in the rink and just wearing the full face shields this year, but everything else has been pretty much the same. A few of the teams in the lower mainland have had some games postponed, but we’re pretty isolated up north, so it’s been pretty timid here.”
Now at the helm of an experienced roster, Waite will look to help Prince George improve its 18-32-8 record from last season without the additional pressure of having to impress NCAA scouts every showing. For now, the biggest worry on the mind of the Spruce Kings captain may be that of choosing a university major. But at this point, it appears as though Waite already has that sorted out.
“St. Lawrence is a liberal arts school so I am going to get an opportunity to kind of dip by toes into just about everything,” he said. “I have alawys been a numbers guy and they do have a good economics program there, so that is definitely something tempting for me to lean towards. I don’t know anyone there yet, but I did play with Drake Burgin growing up (who also recently committed to the hockey program). But I’m just excited to get this season going and worry about all that later.”