As an expansion franchise in the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL), the freshly minted Blackfalds Bulldogs are familiar with blazing trails and assessing trends. It is fitting, then, to see the organization dipping their skate blades into a steady-growing talent pool trending out of southern California, evidenced by their rookie net-minder, Lucas Massie.
The ‘Golden State’ is fast becoming known as a hub for goaltender development; as demonstrated earlier this season by Vancouver Canucks’ back-stop, Thatcher Demko (San Diego, CA), who became the first goaltender from California to make an All-Star game appearance, during the 2022 NHL All-Star Game in Las Vegas, NV.
Massie, a ‘So-Cal’ kid himself, was born in Claremont, CA and began his own conquest of the crease in-and-around the Pomona Valley, just outside of Los Angeles. When it comes to his first exposure to the game, Massie is quick to nominate his father, a former roller-hockey player, as the one who first fostered his interest in hockey at an early age. It takes a full team effort, of course, and Massie also credits his mother, grandparents and his brother for the inspiration and support needed to reach this point in his career.
“A huge one is probably my brother,” Massie explained. “He’s two years older than me, so throughout the years I’ve always had something to compare myself to. The guys he competes with, I get to watch them and being able to watch that higher level has always been an inspiration for me.”
Massie played minor hockey with the Los Angeles Jr. Kings (16U AAA) and later, the Anaheim Jr. Ducks 18U AAA, where he put up stellar numbers in his final season with the Jr. Ducks, appearing in 21 games in 2020-21, posting 1.71 goals against average (G.A.A.) and a .935 save-percentage (Sv%). When asked about growing up playing hockey in California, Massie explained casually, but adamantly, that the hunger for the game in his home state should not be underestimated.
“You’d be surprised. (The game) has actually grown pretty steadily out there. Hockey in California is great to be honest with you, the local ‘AAA’ teams are unreal,” Massie recounted. “It’s a lot of travel, pretty hard on the parents that get us all across the country to play, but yeah, hockey in California is great.”
In his first season of junior hockey, Massie admits to feeling some added pressure joining an expansion franchise in its inaugural year, especially with the already inherent challenges of transitioning from ‘AAA’ to Junior ‘A’ as a goaltender. However, Massie’s approach to goaltending is laid-back and simple, focusing on a few rudimentary (but essential) elements of his game.
“I like to put a big emphasis on skating, I think that’s my biggest strength. Moving on my feet, making sure I’m in position, being quick on my feet. Another big one is patience, like, being in a calm state of mind, more of a mental game,” Massie explained.
“It’s a lot more pressure at this level,” he continued. “So that’s the biggest thing I’ve had to learn to deal with. Just learning to view pressure as a positive thing, letting it push me rather than weigh me down.”
To unwind away from the rink, Massie spends a portion of his time volunteering at the local elementary school, which has been a brand new experience for him this year, but one he admits he has thoroughly enjoyed. He has also really enjoyed his work with the Humane Society, donating time and resources for the animals at the local shelter.
“My main volunteering effort has been with the Humane Society. I go there once a week for a few hours with (teammate) Tristan Zarsky. We spend time with the dogs and the cats, take them on walks, donate food and I love it.”
Massie’s efforts around the community were duly noted as he received the ‘Volunteer of the Year’ Award from the team at the end of the season. He also amassed double-digit win totals (15) between the pipes for the Bulldogs during his rookie season in 2021-22.
Article by Bryan Wilson.