Story by Jeff Gard/Total Sports Quinte
When considering his next options for education and hockey, Wellington Dukes veteran forward Mason Reeves knew the University of Toronto was the perfect fit.
It was announced Wednesday that Reeves has committed to the University of Toronto Varsity Blues men’s hockey program, starting the 2022-23 Ontario University Athletics season. The 20-year-old is equally excited to continue his studies there, likely with some general courses in his first year before choosing a major to pursue.
“For me personally, I’ve just been raised this way, but education has always come before hockey so going to U of T and having that degree, graduating there, it was a pretty easy decision. I’m very happy that I’m going there,” Reeves said, noting it’s a prime location for his family, which lives about 15 minutes away from the campus.
“I think their hockey program speaks for itself and the division they play in is, in my opinion, the most competitive with teams like Brock, Ryerson, Lakehead and York. That’s very intriguing for me and U of T is by far the top school in Canada academically and one of the top in the world so it was kind of a no-brainer for me.”
Varsity Blues head coach Ryan Medel and assistant Andrew Dovey showed early interest, which Reeves found appealing.
In addition, his brother Peyton Reeves is already on the team’s roster. He returned to Ontario last year after spending the 2019-20 season with the NCAA’s UMass Minutemen.
The Reeves brothers are three years apart and have never played together. The closest opportunity came when Peyton captained the 2018-19 Ontario Junior Hockey League Buckland Cup champion Oakville Blades. Mason was an affiliated player with club and they had the chance to practice together, but never played in a game at the same time.
“It was definitely a partial factor in my decision to play at U of T and I know how excited we both are for this special opportunity, but even if he wasn’t there I would still be going to the University of Toronto,” Mason Reeves said.
Reeves looks forward to the opportunity to earn his spot in the lineup. OUA hockey, part of U Sports, features former players from a number of different leagues and the Varsity Blues are a great example of that. The current U of T roster includes former Ontario Hockey League, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, OJHL (such as former Dukes Quinn Hanna and Ben Woodhouse), NCAA, Maritime Hockey League, Central Canadian Hockey League and North American Hockey League players.
“I know it’s going to be a challenge for me, but that excites me a lot,” Reeves remarked. “I’ve always been the kind of person that likes to work for what I get so I’m expecting to go in there and be in and out of the lineup, but that’s a challenge for me and I’m looking forward to it.”
Prior to arriving in Wellington last season, Reeves previously gained junior A experience during the 2019-20 season with the Brooks Bandits of the Alberta Junior Hockey League and the Prince George Spruce Kings of the British Columbia Hockey League. He had previously been in contact with Dukes management, though, and knew there was interest from the OJHL club.
“When I got the call and they told me I was coming to Wellington, I was very excited knowing that I was coming to a place where I was wanted,” Reeves said. “Right away I clicked with the coaching staff and everyone around the team. Derek Smith a been a huge part of my development over these past two years. I can’t thank him enough for all the things he’s done for me and the team.”
Reeves also offered thanks to current Dukes assistant coach Tyler Longo and general manager Rob Ridgely.
“It’s really great to be in Wellington now and I’m looking forward to what we can do here with this group and hopefully win a championship,” he said. “Playing in the Duke Dome this year, having the fans there, it’s been loud every night. I think the guys definitely appreciate it too and being able to play other teams and travel and just bond as a group and play some regular hockey has been huge for us.”
Reeves finds any way he can to help his team be successful.
“I know I’m not the most skilled guy out there, I think a lot of people know that, but I like to play a very honest game, two-way hard, physical, fast forechecking game and like to get in the other team’s face and heads a bit,” he said. “I do like the role that I play and embrace it.”
Currently, the Dukes are scheduled to return to action with road games Jan. 6 in Lindsay and Jan. 8 in Mississauga. On Thursday, the OJHL announced the Jan. 9 Wellington home game has been postponed due to arena closer.
“I know everyone on our team is really looking forward to getting back. We’re talking to each other every single day, Derek’s been talking to us throughout, updating us on what’s going on,” Reeves said. “Hopefully we come back on time like we’re supposed to. We’re all here for the right reasons, we’re all here to win so if everybody’s pulling on the same rope I think we have a pretty special group and can do something amazing here.”