Ron Mason, the second-winningest coach in college hockey history, passed away Monday. He was 76.
"Coach Mason defined what it means to be a Spartan," Michigan State President Lou Anna K. Simon said. "His relentless quest for excellence on and off the rink made everyone around him better. He truly created a Spartan hockey family in which the focus was on collective success rather than worrying about who received credit. That drive translated into great accomplishments on the ice and in life for all those fortunate enough to work with or play for him."
"I first met Ron when I was a student here in the early 80s," MSU Director of Athletics Mark Hollis said. "I admired him as a coach and leader at that time and developed great respect for his commitment to success and student-athletes. Having the opportunity to work for Ron in my transition to the athletics director's chair was invaluable. He was a great person and a great friend."
"It's truly a sad day for the hockey world. Not only was Ron a legendary figure at Michigan State, but his contributions to college hockey were remarkable," MSU hockey coach and four-year letterwinner Tom Anastos said. "I loved learning from his competitive spirit and his relentless commitment to excellence. Being a part of the championship teams he created here at MSU was truly special and something I'll have forever. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Marion, his daughters, Cindy and Tracey, and all of his family."
Mason spent 36 years (1966-2002) behind the bench in college hockey, and finished his coaching career with a record of 924-380-83. In 23 years at MSU (1979-2002), he posted a 635-270-69 mark. His career highlights include an NCAA Championship at Michigan State in 1986 and an NAIA Championship with Lake Superior State in 1972. He led MSU to 17 CCHA regular-season and playoff titles and guided 23 teams to the NCAA Tournament, an all-time record. In addition, he coached 35 All-Americans and 50 former Spartans who went on to establish careers in the National Hockey League.
Following his illustrious coaching career, Mason took on a different role, serving as MSU's Athletics Director from 2002-07. During his tenure as AD, MSU teams captured 11 conference championships (regular season and postseason combined) and one national championship (hockey, 2007). In addition, MSU was represented at the NCAA Championships 76 times, including Final Four/Frozen Four appearances by men's basketball (2005), women's basketball (2005), field hockey (2002 and 2004) and ice hockey (2007).
In December 2013, Mason was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame.
"It's definitely something special. You dream about winning the lottery, but not something like this," said Mason at the time. "If you've put a lot of years in, like I did as a player, coach or athletics director, it's nice to be rewarded at the end of it. It tells you that you did some things right, you worked hard and you loved your profession.
"I never thought I was ever going to be a coach. I wanted to be a teacher and a professor. As it turns out, I was able to do a little bit of both - I was able to teach and I was able to coach."
In 1966, Mason began his coaching career as the first head coach at Lake Superior State where he also served as assistant athletics director. He guided the Lakers to five NAIA Tournament appearances, including the 1972 National Championship. Three of his other teams finished as NAIA runners-up.
In 1973, he moved on to Bowling Green, establishing the Falcons as a national hockey power. In six seasons, he led Bowling Green to three CCHA regular-season titles (1976, 1978, 1979) and three playoff championships (1977, 1978, 1979).
Mason's Michigan State career began with the 1979-80 season when he replaced the legendary Amo Bessone. The seven-time CCHA Coach of the Year led Michigan State to seven league regular-season championships in 1985, 1986, 1989, 1990, 1998, 1999 and 2001. He also guided the Spartans to 10 CCHA playoff crowns in 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1989, 1990, 1998, 2000 and 2001. In 2001, the CCHA honored Mason by renaming the CCHA playoff trophy - The Mason Cup - in his honor due to his contributions to college hockey and formation of the CCHA as well as his success behind the bench.
Mason also had a first-hand perspective on one of MSU's biggest athletic endeavors, as he coached his Spartans against Michigan in front of a then-world-record crowd of 74,554 in an outdoor hockey game at Spartan Stadium (Oct. 6, 2001).
Mason coached MSU's only two Hobey Baker Award winners - Kip Miller in 1990 and Ryan Miller in 2001. He also coached the first college player - Joe Murphy - to be taken first overall in the NHL Draft in 1986 by the Detroit Red Wings.
Sad to hear Coach Mason has passed. He did so much for @MSU_Hockey and he taught his players well. Thanks for everything Coach.— Ryan Miller (@RyanMiller3039) June 13, 2016
Mason received his bachelor's degree from St. Lawrence in 1964, where he lettered in hockey for three years. In 1965, he received his master's from Pittsburgh. He was presented with an honorary doctorate from Michigan State in the spring of 2001.
For all his career accomplishments, Mason has been inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame (1994), Lake Superior Sports Hall of Fame (1996), St. Lawrence University Sports Hall of Fame (1999), Bowling Green Athletics Hall of Fame (2009) and Michigan State Athletics Hall of Fame (2010). In addition, the American Hockey Coaches Association honored him with the John MacInnes Award for his outstanding contributions to hockey in the spring of 2003, and he received the Hobey Baker Memorial Award Foundation's 2004 "Legend of Hockey" in April 2004.
Mason was born Jan. 14, 1940, in Seaforth, Ontario.