As a kid, Travis Walsh spent an exceptional amount of time at Munn Ice Arena.
Grandson of Ron Mason — former MSU hockey head coach, athletics director and one of the most notable names in the game — and son of former Maine hockey head coach, the late Shawn Walsh, Travis was born into a line of strong college hockey blood.
Now it’s Travis’ turn to step into the spotlight, playing as a freshman defenseman for Spartan hockey.
Best of the best
Below are the top five college men’s ice hockey coaches with the most career wins.
1. Ron Mason (coached at MSU): 924 wins
1. Jerry York*: 924 wins
3. Jack Parker*: 873 wins
4. Rick Comley (coached at MSU): 783
5. Red Berenson*: 756
- indicates active coaches
“When I was little, I was going to all these games and seeing Michigan State winning,” Travis said. “I knew my grandpa was a coach, and I thought, ‘Well, something must be going right.’ When I got older and started playing my own organized hockey, I think I had a little bit more respect for what was really going on.”
What actually was going on was Mason solidifying his establishment in the college hockey world.
He served as a head coach for 36 years, 23 as a Spartan.
Mason earned a 1986 national championship with MSU, made more than 20 NCAA Tournament appearances, and coached 44 Spartans-turned-NHLers.
One of his most noteworthy accomplishments is his 924 wins — a record currently teetering on the edge of being broken by Boston College head coach Jerry York.
Many people thought Mason’s record would never be touched, but York tied it last Saturday with a 5-2 win against Boston University and looks to break the record tonight against Providence.
“We knew it was going to happen this year,” Mason said. “In my case, it was all about winning the next game when I was coaching. You want to win the next game or win a championship or win the next season.”
York currently is in his 41st year as a head coach. He took over Ron Mason’s head coaching job at Bowling Green in 1979, the beginning of his 15-year stint there before heading to Boston College.
Since then, York’s led Boston College to 10 NCAA Frozen Fours and has five NCAA Tournament national titles.
Current MSU hockey head coach and former player Tom Anastos spoke highly of York and his legacy, but said it’s upsetting that Mason, whom he played for while at MSU, no longer will hold the record.
“It’s too bad that it’s broken; my old coach, it’s his record,” Anastos said. “I guess I was part of some of those wins to help him get there, but that’s how it goes. Jerry’s certainly very deserving of all the attention. He probably deserves more attention than he even gets.”
Mason said when he decided to become director of athletics in 2002, many people urged him to keep coaching until he hit the 1,000-wins milestone, but to him, it wasn’t about the number.
“My grandpa accomplished what he accomplished while he was here and had many great teams, won a championship,” Travis said.
“I think that’s what’s important is the players that were here and the teams that he had. It was 924 wins, obviously not all here, but a lot of them were.”
For now, Mason is taking a step back to watch the MSU hockey program develop as an outsider. He’s no longer a head coach or a director of athletics, he’s simply a grandpa watching his grandson play.
More than a decade ago, Travis was sitting at Munn Ice Arena, watching his grandfather coach the Spartans. The tables since have turned, as Mason now is the spectator cheering on his grandson in an MSU hockey jersey.
“He had to work really hard to get himself to be in a position to play for Michigan State, and I think he’s doing well,” Mason said of Travis. “He’s a hard worker, and he couldn’t be a better grandson.”