Colorado College men’s hockey may have ended their season a few weeks ago, but three seniors’ new careers are just beginning.
Forwards Mason Bergh ’19, Trey Bradley ’19 and Trevor Gooch ’19 each signed contracts with National Hockey League teams and have already joined their minor league affiliates.
“I’m excited to play with some of the best players in the world,” Bergh said. “It is a really good league that will be fun to help me develop as both a person and player.”
Bergh is now playing for the Ontario Reign, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings. His contract came together in a matter of days — the Tigers played their final game on a Saturday, and Bergh was with the Kings by that Tuesday. He played his first game for the Reign on March 31, and he scored his first professional goal that night.
“My goals are to try and make a good impression on the coaching staff and learn as much as I can from everyone here,” Bergh said. “It is a good opportunity to get my first professional experience with a great organization so I want to try and get better every day and work my hardest to stay here.”
Bradley’s contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs also came together quickly. He heard they were interested in him a few weeks ago, but he talked to the director of player operations on March 31, and his contract was official the next day. His contract is technically for the 2019–2020 season, so he is playing on an ATO — an Amateur Try-out agreement — for the duration of this season. Bradley is currently playing with the Toronto Marlies, the AHL affiliate of the Maple Leafs.
He is looking forward to playing with and against talented players in the AHL, and he is hoping to learn from everyone around him.
“Our conference [NCHC] in the NCAA is a great conference, so I will be very battle-tested going right into the AHL,” Bradley said. “But I would say the size and strength of the players in the AHL will be a tough adjustment. In college you play against kids, and in the AHL they are grown men.”
Bradley is well on his way to becoming one of those men. He is a professional hockey player now, which means that he is earning money for playing, and it is the only thing he is focused on now. His daily routine now consists of, “Waking up, going right to the rink and playing hockey.”
“That has been a dream of mine for my whole life and I finally get to live it,” Bradley said. “Also, making money and finally getting paid to play hockey is exciting.”
Gooch was in contact with the Philadelphia Flyers since the middle of March, and he was excited to sign with them right away, because his NCAA eligibility expired at the end of the Tigers’ season. He now plays for the Reading Royals, the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) affiliate of the Flyers.
His time with the Royals will help prepare him to be a competitive professional hockey player. There is always a transition from the NCAA to the NHL, but Gooch is anticipating different strategies at this level and he is excited to learn about them.
“The challenge from playing college then playing professional is adapting to a new style of play,” Gooch said. “College hockey is more of a ‘run and gun’ style and work your hardest, while professional is more positional based.”
The biggest change players in this situation face is an extended season. The NCAA season is over for most teams, and the championship is in a few days, but the AHL and ECHL will continue until the middle of April. A full NCAA schedule, plus an additional month of professional hockey can be exhausting for players who are also finishing up their college degree.
All three players have been able to balance their final two blocks with professional hockey by taking summer blocks to get ahead, or working on independent study projects during this time. They scheduled their courses this way in anticipation of leaving campus early.
“My teacher was very understanding, and I am working on class every day that I am off campus,” Gooch said. “CC really gives you the tools to succeed if you just ask.”
Good luck, Tigers!