Broadcaster Fraser Rodgers chatted with graduating forward and captain Josh Maser about his time in Prince George and his future in hockey.
Have you had time to process the season being ended early and your WHL career now officially over?
Josh Maser (JM): No, not really. Everything is coming at me pretty fast, now that I have been out of hockey for just a couple of weeks. I have some big decisions to make about where I am going to go to school or if I want to turn pro. I am just trying to take as much time as I can right now to do my homework and make the right decision going forward. I am reading up a lot on universities and seeing what the right fit for me could be.
As a player, how was it to process the news of the COVID-19 pandemic and the cancellation of the 2019-2020 season?
(JM): Well, we first heard about it on the bus, as we were making our way down to Victoria to start a road trip. Honestly, I didn’t believe the news at first. I got woken up on the bus by a teammate who told me. It wasn’t until one of our coaches told us what was happening and that we were turning around to go back home that it started to sink in. I myself was definitely frustrated that we couldn’t finish out the season and make that final playoff push. I had full confidence in our group that we were going to do it, but at the same time I completely understand why it happened. This is something bigger than hockey and sports. I have made peace with it. When we look back at this situation, I think we can take comfort in knowing we took the necessary precautions to make sure everyone stayed safe.
With the way the season ended, the three-game win streak at home and sweeping Vancouver, was it a silver lining?
(JM): Yeah, I think that was probably the best way we could have gone out. That weekend against Vancouver was memorable. It was two of our best, most energetic crowds and Vancouver was one of the hottest teams in the WHL at that time. To sweep them was impressive and the fashion in which we did it was even more impressive. Both games were so fun to play in, especially the overtime win. I can remember both games like they were yesterday. It was definitely the way I wanted to go out and getting that (hat-trick) was a nice moment for me with my family in the crowd watching. The energy in the CN Centre that weekend was awesome, especially the OT win, and I hope that continues next year and for years to come. Those big nights are the ones you’ll remember.
When you look back at your four-year career in the WHL, what will be your favourite memory?
(JM): I think that is a pretty easy question to answer honestly. It was playing so close to home and being able to look up in the stands and having my mom, my dad, my brothers, or a couple of buddies there watching. It was always great to talk to them after the games and just having them there, cheering us on and supporting me was my favourite part.
What will you miss most about being a Prince George Cougar?
(JM): Going to the rink every day and just being around the guys. As much as I hate to admit it with how cold winters can be in Prince George, I will miss the early mornings getting ready for road trips. Getting to the rink at 6:00 am, in freezing cold and loading the bus. Just those unique things that you share with your teammates that you won’t experience again now that I am moving on.
What is your next step in your hockey career?
(JM): Well, with how our contracts work (WHL Standard Player Agreement), you have 18 months to utilize your scholarship. It’s a great program and I have five years in my back pocket, and for players like myself it’s very important to get an education and something to fall back on if hockey doesn’t pan out. I’ve talked to a few schools throughout the season, but it was a weird ending to the season, so there’s schools out there I still want to talk and see what they offer. At the same time, I still think I can play hockey at a high level, whether it be in the AHL, ECHL, or Europe. So, like I said earlier I’m taking my time and weighing my options before making a decision on my next step.
Josh, you have the last word. What would you like to say?
(JM): I just want to thank you (the fans) for your support over the last four years. You made the game so much fun when you filled the building and made so much noise. Those big crowds, those big nights were games I dreamt about playing in when I was a young kid coming to the rink. It was such an honour to play for a team I grew up watching and being so close to my hometown. Putting on the Cougars’ jersey meant so much to me and to be the Captain in my final year was truly special. I was so fortunate to play with so many good players that I will have lasting friendships with. I can’t thank the organization enough for what they did for me. I just want to say thank you to my coaches, support staff, my billets, and the fans for everything you’ve done for me. Thanks for making Prince George my home.