College: St. Lawrence ?64
Overall Record (Years): 897-371-78 (35)
Record at MSU (Years): 608-261-68 (22)
CCHA Coach of the Year: 1976, 1978, 1979, 1985, 1989, 1990, 1999
National Coach of the Year: 1992
CCHA Regular Season Titles at MSU: 1985, 1986, 1989, 1990, 1998, 1999, 2001
CCHA Tournament Titles at MSU: 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1989, 1990, 1998, 2000, 2001
NCAA Titles at MSU: 1986
NCAA Tournament Appearances: 21 (an all-time record)
All-Americans Coached: 32
NHL Players Coached at MSU: 44
Michigan State head coach Ron Mason builds upon his legendary status every season. The winningest coach in college hockey history, Mason enters his 23rd season at MSU and 36th as a college head coach with an 897-371-78 overall record and a 608-261-64 mark at Michigan State. He won his 600th game behind the Spartan bench last season against Michigan at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit and needs just three victories to eclipse the 900-career win plateau.
Mason?s storied career includes both an NCAA championship (with Michigan State in 1986) and an NAIA championship (with Lake Superior State in 1972). He has led MSU to 17 CCHA regular-season and playoff titles and has guided 21 teams to the NCAA Tournament, the best of any coach, and his 22 tournament victories are second all-time.
The Spartan bench boss passed former Boston College coach Len Ceglarski?s mark of 673 wins to become the winningest college coach in U.S. history on March 12, 1993, as MSU posted a 6-5 victory over Kent in the first round of the CCHA playoffs. Mason became the winningest college coach in North America when he surpassed former University of Alberta coach Clare Drake?s total of 697 on March 18, 1994. That night, the Spartans rallied from a 2-0 deficit with under 10 minutes remaining to post a 3-2 overtime victory over Bowling Green in the CCHA quarterfinals. His most recent milestone, his 800th victory, came on Feb. 20, 1998, as Michigan State beat archrival Michigan, 5-1, and was punctuated by Munn Arena fans pouring onto the ice and saluting the veteran coach.
Appointed to MSU hockey?s top position in April 1979, Mason has successfully turned the Spartan program into a perennial national power. Four of his MSU squads have set single-season records for victories (26 in 1981-82, 30 in 1982-83, 34 in 1983-84 and a then-NCAA record 38 wins in 1984-85). Michigan State has had only three losing seasons under Mason?s tutelage and just one in the past 20 seasons.
?I think that if you ask anyone in college hockey to name the top four or five jobs,? says Mason, ?Michigan State will be right there every time. And for me personally, this is the best job I could possibly have. I think that with the enthusiasm of the fans, both here and when we play on the road, the administration and how they treat the program, from the president right on down, I don?t think you could ask for a better setting.?
Mason?s influence in modern college and professional hockey can be seen in the success of the CCHA and behind the benches and on the ice at games across the continent. In 1971, while coaching at Lake Superior, Mason worked with Jack Vivian of Bowling Green and Bill Selman of St. Louis University to establish a ?coaches league.? CCHA play began the next fall. Because of his role in the development of the league and his success behind the bench, the CCHA coaches voted unanimously to rename the league?s playoff championship trophy in his honor prior to the 2000-01 season. Fitting enough the Spartans would be the first team to hoist the Mason Cup as 2001 CCHA Tournament titleists.
A further example of Mason?s influence can be seen in the proliferation of his former players in various roles in professional hockey. 44 of Mason?s former Michigan State players have gone on to play in the NHL, including 16 former Spartans in the league this year alone. Mason?s former players have also gone on to become NHL general managers (George McPhee of the Washington Capitals) and NHL assistant coaches (Newell Brown of the Columbus Blue Jackets).
Mason?s rise to the top of the college coaching ranks began in 1966, when he was appointed the first head coach at Lake Superior State, where he guided the Lakers to five NAIA tournament appearances. The 1971-72 squad won the NAIA national championship while three of his other teams finished as runners-up.
Mason moved on to Bowling Green in 1973 and there began to build a national reputation. In six years under Mason?s direction (1973-79), BGSU garnered CCHA first-place finishes in 1976, 1978 and 1979 and playoff championships in each of his last three seasons there. His 1977-78 Falcons finished third in the NCAA Tournament with an impressive 31-8-0 mark for the year. The following season with BGSU his team won a then-national record 37 games against only six losses and two ties.
Mason took the reins at Michigan State in 1979, replacing the legendary Amo Bessone. Despite a 14-24-0 record ? the first losing season of Mason?s career ? the Spartans earned their first trip to the WCHA playoffs since 1975-76. The next season proved to be another rocky one, as the 1980-81 squad compiled a 12-22-2 mark and a last-place WCHA finish. The groundwork was being laid, however, for Michigan State?s dominance throughout the rest of the century.
The Ron Mason era truly began with the 1981-82 season when the Spartans moved to the CCHA and the results of the new mentor?s aggressive recruiting and off-ice conditioning program began to pay off. The MSU icers were never lower than second place during the CCHA regular season and eventually finished as runners-up to Bowling Green with a 21-10-1 record. MSU then proceeded to earn its first of four consecutive CCHA playoff championships and nine straight NCAA Tournament appearances.
The 1982-83 season continued to bear the fruits of Mason?s efforts as MSU captured its first eight games, tying a school record for most consecutive wins. The highlights of the season, however, were two Spartan triumphs at Joe Louis Arena. MSU won the first of four straight Great Lakes Invitational championships and handed Bowling Green a 4-3 overtime defeat to win the league playoff crown.
In 1983-84 Mason was rewarded, along with repeat GLI and CCHA postseason championships, with his 400th career coaching victory and the No. 1 seed in the NCAA semifinals in Lake Placid, N.Y. The Spartans came up short in their bid for a national championship, falling in the semifinal match to eventual champion Bowling Green, 2-1.
The 1984-85 campaign was considered by Mason to be the finest season in which he had ever been involved. The Spartans, who were ranked No. 1 in the nation for 10 consecutive weeks, produced a phenomenal 38-6-0 won-loss mark and rewrote several MSU, CCHA and NCAA records while dominating their opponents in all aspects of the game. Mason was honored with the CCHA?s Coach of the Year award but the Spartan mentor proved to be right once too often when he warned that college hockey was too unpredictable to assure MSU of a national title. The Spartans were upset by Providence College in the first round of the NCAA playoffs at Munn Arena.
In 1985-86, Mason led what appeared to be a rebuilding squad to a second consecutive CCHA regular-season championship and his first NCAA championship. Mason piloted a squad that included eight freshmen and only four seniors through a rocky 11-7-1 start. MSU compiled a 19-1-1 mark over its next 21 games and finished with a 23-2-1 slate over the final 26 games of the season. The team prognosticators had picked to fight for a first-division finish in the CCHA eventually overcame Minnesota in the national semifinals and Harvard in the NCAA title game, marking the second time MSU had claimed the national crown and first since the 1965-66 season.
In 1986-87, Michigan State surprised the experts in what most believed to be a rebuilding year, by winning its fifth CCHA playoff championship in six years, returning to the NCAA championship game for the second year in a row and to the NCAA Frozen Four for the third time in four years. Included among that year?s successes was Mason?s 500th victory, which came against Illinois-Chicago Jan. 17 in a 5-3 Spartan win.
In 1987-88, Mason fielded 11 freshmen and eight sophomores on the 28-man roster. The hope for the young team was to finish among the top four in the CCHA and make it to Joe Louis Arena for the CCHA championship playoffs. The Spartans finished third in the league and not only advanced to Joe Louis Arena, where they claimed third place with a consolation victory over Western Michigan, but also received an NCAA Tournament bid. MSU defeated Harvard in Cambridge, Mass., before losing at Minnesota in the quarterfinals and narrowly missing a trip to the Frozen Four in Lake Placid, N.Y. The Spartans finished the season with a 27-16-3 record.
During the 1988-89 campaign, Mason guided the Spartans to their sixth 30-win season in seven years and captured both the CCHA regular-season and playoff crowns. This star-studded cast included All-Americans Bobby Reynolds and Kip Miller, CCHA Rookie of the Year Rod Brind?Amour and a host of others who rewrote several team and individual school records. The Spartans dispatched Boston College in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals before dropping the semifinal game to a revenge-minded Harvard squad, 6-3. MSU took third place in the tournament after defeating Maine, 7-4, in the consolation game and closed the year with a 37-9-1 mark. That year Mason become the second-winningest coach in college hockey history when the Spartans defeated Ferris State, 3-0, on Dec. 16.?
In 1989-90, led by Kip Miller?s 101-point scoring tear which would bring him the Hobey Baker Memorial Award, Mason?s charges once again took both the CCHA regular-season and playoff championships. The Spartans earned a record 55 points in CCHA play and set a new conference standard for league victories in a season with 26 wins. The Green and White also set a CCHA record by recording a 27-game CCHA unbeaten streak (24-0-3) spanning four months. Overall, the Spartans ended the year with a 35-7-3 record, the third-highest victory total and second-best winning percentage (.811) in school history.
The 1990-91 season saw the Spartans suffer their first losing season since 1980-81 as they finished the campaign with a 17-18-5 record but MSU returned to national prominence in 1991-92 by reaching the NCAA semifinals for the fourth time in seven years. Along the way, Mason posted his 350th MSU victory with a 7-2 triumph over Miami and his 650th career win against Boston University in the NCAA East Regional. For his efforts, Mason won the American Hockey Coaches Association?s Spencer Penrose Award as national coach of the year for the first time in his career.
In 1992-93, Mason guided a relatively young squad through injuries and illnesses to a 24-14-2 record and a fourth-place finish in the CCHA regular season. Despite the respectable record, the Spartans were denied an NCAA seed after being eliminated from the CCHA quarterfinals by Ferris State. The high point of the season, however, came on March 12 as the Green and White held off a surprising Kent team to give Ron Mason his place as the winningest coach in U.S. college hockey history.
In 1993-94, the Spartans posted a 23-13-5 record, winning more than 20 games for the third consecutive year and the 12th time in Mason?s 15 years in East Lansing. MSU also qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the 11th time in 13 years while a CCHA quarterfinal win over BGSU gave Mason yet another coaching milestone, the No. 1 spot on the career victory list in all of college hockey.
The 1994-95 edition of the Green and White went 25-12-3, advanced to the CCHA championship game and earned a berth in the NCAA West Regional at Madison, Wis. The 1995-96 team duplicated the latter feat when the West Regional was held in Michigan State?s own Munn Arena. That team, laden with freshmen and missing several key seniors from 1994-95, held first place in the CCHA for much of the second half of the season and was ranked as high as third in the nation.
With another young team in 1996-97, Mason led a group which had an innate ability to beat the best in college hockey, such as handing defending NCAA champion Michigan its first two losses of the season. The Spartans advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the 14th time in 16 years.
The 1997-98 Spartans became the first team to bring a title to East Lansing in seven years, capturing both the CCHA regular-season and playoff championships. MSU also won the GLI title, finishing with a 33-6-5 record and an .807 winning percentage, the third-best in school history. The Spartans held the nation?s No. 1 ranking for much of the regular season, featured four All-Americans and had two Hobey Baker finalists including runner-up Chad Alban.
Michigan State continued to pace the CCHA in 1998-99 as Mason guided the team to its second consecutive regular-season title and earned his seventh CCHA Coach of the Year award. The Spartans also captured their second straight GLI title and advanced to the NCAA Frozen Four for the first time since 1992. Senior center Mike York was named CCHA Player of the Year, Hobey Baker runner-up and, for the second straight season, first-team All-America.
The 1999-2000 Spartans earned Mason a seventh straight NCAA tourney bid by taking the CCHA tournament title in decisive fashion. Mason?s charges outscored league opponents in the postseason by a 21-3 margin. MSU also reeled off a 10-game winning streak early in the season. Senior center Shawn Horcoff followed in the footsteps of his former teammate Mike York by winning CCHA Player of the Year and first-team All-American honors and being named a Hobey Baker finalist.
The 2000-01 campaign saw MSU post a 33-5-4 record and advance to the NCAA Frozen Four for the second time in three seasons. The Spartans, who were the nation?s top-ranked team for 19 straight weeks, reeled off a school-record tying unbeaten streak of 23 games and won both the CCHA regular-season and playoff championships in addition to a fourth-straight GLI title. Standout goaltender Ryan Miller closed the season by becoming the second Spartan to win the Hobey Baker Award.
On May 19, 1994, Mason was inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame. He has also been inducted into the Lake Superior Sports Hall of Fame (1996) for his efforts as a coach there and the St. Lawrence Sports Hall of Fame (1999) for his playing career.
Mason received his bachelor?s degree from St. Lawrence in 1964 and his master?s from Pittsburgh in 1965. He played hockey at St. Lawrence, where he lettered for three years. Mason led the team in scoring twice and still stands among the top 20 Saints in career goals and points. The Saints finished the 1962-63 season with a 26-1-0 regular-season record and a school-record .963 winning percentage. Prior to attending St. Lawrence, Mason played junior A hockey with both the Peterborough Petes and the Ottawa Junior Canadians.
Mason served on the American Hockey Association Board of Directors from 1973 to1977 and is a former member of the NCAA Ice Hockey Committee. He is currently a member of the NCAA Ice Hockey Rules Committee.
Mason is active in a number of local organizations and charities. His community work includes the Children?s Miracle Network, for which Mason has served as honorary chair for the past seven years. An avid fisherman, Mason also enjoys golfing.
Born Jan. 14, 1940, in Blyth, Ontario, Mason and his wife, Marion, have two daughters ? Tracey and Cindy ? and two grandsons ? Tyler and Travis.