The 22-year-old lickety-split freshman and the venerated 37-year-old west coast icon hit it off back then.
One at the opening titles of his movie, the other the closing credits.
“My first year in Vancouver was Trevor Linden’s last year in the game,” the older, wiser version of Mason Raymond is reminiscing, thoughts drifting back to 2007-2008.
“We really connected because we were both Alberta boys. Me from Cochrane. Trevor from Medicine Hat. I grew up out on the farm. He grew up out in the country a bit.
“We’ve stayed in touch.
“I wish I could say that I fully understood what it meant to Trevor, what he was feeling, everything he was going through, that year. I thought I did in the moment. Where I am now, I realize I didn’t. I couldn’t.
“That was also Marcus Naslund’s last year in Vancouver, one of his last in the NHL. Another huge idol I looked up to.
“I learned a lot from those guys. But when you’re young, just starting out, you can’t absorb how good being a professional hockey player actually is, how lucky you truly are.
“I was fortunate to be able to live that life for 10 years.”
Raymond, of course, spent a couple of those seasons in Calgary Flames’ togs, among four NHL stops. Now two years retired, following a winter spent with SC Bern of the Swiss National League, he’s returned home.
“Simply put,” is the frank admission, “I miss … everything, I guess is the best way to put it. Mostly, the people. The day-to-day banter. Of course, you miss the competition – being competitive is what put us all in the best league in the world – but the camaraderie of being with the guys is…
“I know it’s super-cliche, but honestly you don’t know how good you had it ’til it’s gone. We all got paid good money to do something we loved. Absolutely loved. There were good times and there were bad times, sure.
“Playing in the NHL is every Canadian kid’s dream. Trouble is, you don’t pinch yourself until it’s over.
“On the opposite side of it, I’m doing today what I love. I’ve gone back to my roots.”
Back to the farm, to the agriculture business, running cattle, as well, as having a hand in the auto business, while enjoying time with Megan and their two children.
“Everyone asks: ‘How’s retirement?’ Well, truth be told I’ve never been so busy in my life. Being a father. Being a husband. Being in business.”
The year spent in Switzerland was a memorable way to bid adieu to hockey.
“I absolutely loved it,” Raymond says. “The opportunity to go over to Europe and play is something so many players think they can just automatically do. Well, I realized how hard it is to play in Europe, what a good level of hockey it is. And there are only four imports per team. So if you’re outside of a Swiss passport – U.S., Canadian, German – you’re an import.
“During your time in the NHL, you always heard the older guys say: ‘Oh, yeah, when I’m done here I’m going to Europe. For sure. No problem. I played in the NHL.’ Well, it’s not that simple.
“The best thing about playing in Switzerland is that you were home every single night. Road games you’d leave at 4:30 in the afternoon and get there at 5 for a 7:30 game. Then you’re back in your own bed by 11:30-midnight. A great experience for my family, too.
“And, as I mentioned, the level of hockey is high. You’re seeing at the World Juniors how good some of these countries are getting. Their ability to compete at all levels is incredible.”
The move overseas also helped Raymond fulfill an Olympic dream at a non-NHL 2018 Winter Games in South Korea. He has a medal to show for the dream fulfilled, too, Canada’s entry trimming the Czech Republic 6-4 at Gangneung Hockey Centre in Pyeongchang to claim bronze.
“I was never sure if it was actually going to happen or not but fortunately for me, it did,” he says. “I never knew what it was like to be an Olympian until I did that. A great experience.”
Following a point-per-game turn at PostFinance Arena in Bern, there were other European opportunities to pursue but after careful consideration he chose to come home, to stay.
“As you get older, it’s not as easy as: Here’s a contract, do you want it? I have a wife and two kids heading into school so that factored in my decision to hang ’em up.
“Plus, I was keen to hit the business world. When I played, I was already interested in the business stuff. So for me the transition has been smooth.
“You never want the game to end but inevitably it will. I remember Trevor Linden telling me: ‘You retire from the game of hockey an old man but in the real world you’re still a young man.’ It’s so true.
“I was in a good place when I quit. To me, there’s no better league in the world than the NHL so if the NHL wasn’t going to be it for me any more, I was okay with moving on to the next chapter.”
These days, Raymond quenches his hockey fix skating with the Flames’ alumni.
“Remember, I grew up a Flames’ fan,” he reminds you. “As a 10-year-old kid I’d go to the Saddledome and watch Jamie Macoun, Theo Fleury, Mike Vernon, Colin Patterson, Joel Otto.
“And now I am skating every two weeks and doing charity events with them. Funny how it’s gone full circle.”
Set to celebrate his 35th birthday on Sept. 17th, Mason Raymond misses the game but seems wholly content in life afterwards.
“When I was playing,” he muses, “I remember people at all levels saying: ‘Remember this. These are the best times. Don’t take them for granted.’ And they were right.
“Now, where I’m at today, you hear: ‘Your kids are growing up. These are the best times. Don’t miss them. Don’t take them for granted.’
“And they’re right, too.”