DULUTH, Minn. — Now Mason Shaw feels a part of it again.
He’s still a long way off from playing games again and a long way off from being an NHLer again, but on Tuesday, he got to skate in front of fans again at AMSOIL Arena, and he’s now guaranteed at least some sort of paycheck this season.
Shaw has looked the part of a Minnesota Wild player, rehabbing all summer at the team’s practice facility in St. Paul, having a stall and nameplate in the team’s locker room and dressing in his usual Wild gear while skating alone five floors above at TRIA Rink.
But on Tuesday, six months after the 24-year-old sustained the fourth torn ACL of his hockey-playing career at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on April 1, Shaw officially signed on the dotted line to remain with the organization, albeit with the Iowa Wild, not the Minnesota Wild.
Oh no. Mason Shaw needs help off the ice and isn’t putting any weight on that right leg pic.twitter.com/1BvcYyeafp
— Spoked Z (@SpokedZ) April 2, 2023
But what a step this was for a determined hockey player who has faced so much adversity to get to this level.
Shaw, last year’s Wild Masterton Trophy nominee for his incredible perseverance, got on the ice a half hour before his Minnesota teammates practiced, then did a number of warmup laps with his teammates before departing the ice.
“I went over to him before and I said, ‘Are you staying out here because I didn’t get the nod from (head athletic trainer) John Worley,’” coach Dean Evason said. “And he goes, ‘No! I’m not allowed to.’ He was, like, yelling at me. I’m like, ‘It’s not my spot to tell you to stay out here or not. I just asked.’”
— Michael Russo (@RussoHockey) October 3, 2023
The next stage in Shaw’s recovery process is to begin skating with skating and skills coach Andy Ness. At some point, he’ll head to Iowa to begin skating there with the hope of getting medically cleared to skate, practice and ultimately play in December or January. If all goes well and they have the cap space, the Wild may rip up that AHL contract and sign the solid-skating, hard-working checking center to another NHL deal later this season.
“I see the doctors again, I think, next week or the week after,” Shaw said. “At that point, I’ll be over six months from surgery. Then there’s steps we’ve got to follow and I’ve got to clear to be able to get back to the game. That’s what we’re trying to get to. Obviously, the first steps, (are) getting back into full practices, but we’re getting pretty close to that right now.”
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Still, even though there’s a long road ahead, Tuesday was an emotional day for Shaw because it felt like a milestone. Fans at UMD’s arena gave him a rousing applause when he was first on the ice. When he left the ice, he was swarmed for autographs.
“It definitely gives a big lift to your spirits,” he said. “There’s some days where you’re skating on your own and training by yourself — it’s early in the morning, and those skates can get really hard mentally. But when you have some people in the building cheering you on and just a little more motivation and that’s kind of what’s been (getting me) through it. I feel like I’m as motivated as I’ve ever been.”
On a scale of 1-10 how much do you love Mason Shaw?
— Minnesota Wild (@mnwild) October 3, 2023
This all came at the tail end of a Wild bonding trip in Dulugh, where the team allowed him to take part in all activities.
“This whole trip in general just makes you feel like you’re really part of something,” he said. “There’s still some work to be done here for myself, but one step closer to getting back where I want to be and obviously being around the group and being able to be out there a little bit longer on the ice with the guys is one step in the right direction.”
It doesn’t surprise the Wild at all that Shaw has gotten to this point. As Evason said, Shaw’s “will” is part of his DNA.
This is a guy who overcame three reconstructive surgeries before making it to the NHL.
“It’s just a really unfortunate situation in terms of what happened with the injury, but everyone in this organization has been so supportive and has been amazing throughout all this,” Shaw said. “So just keep your eyes up and your head down and just keep working. That’s what I continue to do till I’m ready to play, but we’re making steps in the right direction.
“I love the game. I love the camaraderie of hockey and everything that comes with it. I’m not going to let that be the reason why I’m done playing. So a lot of hard work to get to this point and a lot of support from the people around me and that’s what’s allowed me to keep going. You want to be honest with torn ACLs, but it feels like it’s just a little pebble in the road and a roadblock for me where I’ve got to get through it and keep going.
“There was a little bit of doubt right away, but here we are six months out. There never was really much of a doubt if I could get through it again.”
(Photo: Jerome Miron / USA Today)