I've been watching a lot of hockey this week, thanks to me having this week off, and I've noticed that there is an increasing trend towards using Hollywood imagery on goalie masks. Artistic designs on masks have always been a reflection of the goalie wearing the mask, and it appears that Hollywood characters are finding their way into hockey via the goaltender. Personally, I think there are some fabulous designs that have been used over the years, and some of the characters depicted on masks are quite unique. I've gone back several years to find some of these pictures, but I think you'll agree that these are quite unique, and some are extremely well-painted.
Rather than just breaking into the movies, let's start with Hollywood itself. Kelly Hrudey has probably worn the most famous of Hollywood masks, complete with the Hollywood hills and the Hollywood sign on his mask. As an homage to the film industry, he also has a filmstrip on his mask as well.
However, another Kings' prospect has followed in Hrudey's footsteps. Erik Ersberg has designed a mask with the filmstrip all over the left side of his mask, along with the Hollywood sign. The right side has a huge Kings logo just in case you had no idea what team he was drafted by.
When it comes to the movies being used on masks, there appears to be certain images that players like. Action movies seem to be the movies of choice. Cartoon characters also get a pretty good representation on masks, and they range from the popular to the forgotten. In any case, here is your list of movies that appear on masks.
I'll start with a guy who seems to change his mask design as often as he changes his underwear. Kari Lehtonen of the Atlanta Thrashers is wearing a Kill Bill mask for this season. Last season, he went with a Final Fantasy X-themed mask, and it has been reported that he's currently having a Transformers mask painted. Well, here is the left side and right side of that very mask. A big thumbs-up from this writer on adding the word "Thrashers" in Transformers font. It appears that Lehtonen is all about pop culture on his masks.
Mike Wall of the AHL's Lake Erie Monsters also went with a Transformers-inspired mask. His mask is painted as Optimus Prime's head. Wall's mask is one of the more recognizable in the AHL due to this pop culture reference.
Lehtonen's goaltending partner, Johan Hedberg, decided to add a theme to his Moose mask this season. He has been called "Moose" as a nickname since he was brought up from the AHL's Manitoba Moose for the Pittsburgh Penguins' 2000-01 playoff run. He's kept the Moose imagery on his mask since his call-up, taking it where ever he has played. Since the Penguins playoff run, he's spent time in Vancouver, Dallas, and Atlanta. It's this last place where he devised the "Pirates of the Moose-ibbean" theme for his mask. You can see the imagery on all sides of his mask: left, top, and right.
Since we're talking about Pirates of the Caribbean, we might as well look at Karol Krizan's mask. Krizan plays for Modo in the Swedish Elite League, and he has devoted his entire mask to the Pirates of the Caribbean. You can see Geoffrey Rush on the right side of his mask, and the standard skull-and-crossbones with the Black Pearl above it on the left side. Personally, I really like this design, but I don't know if there would be licensing issues here in North America.
Olaf Kolzig has worn some movie imagery on his mask while in the NHL. Olie the Goalie is most famous for his Godzilla mask, and it was quite prominent earlier in his career. Of course, Kolzig has re-designed his mask several times since then, but this one is certainly one of his most memorable designs.
Ken Wregget took his Hollywood idea to a whole new level by incorporating his team into his mask. Wregget introduced his new mask to the Steel City during the release of Batman Returns which featured Danny DeVito as The Penguin. This is still one of the coolest mask designs in my humble opinion. Aside from Johnny Canuck on Roberto Luongo's mask, this has been the only Hollywood imagery to promote the team rather than the individual.
Chris Mason of the Nashville Predators recently had his mask painted, and he included some Hollywood imagery on the back of the helmet. King Leonidas from the movie 300 is featured on the back plate, and Mason explains why. "When they built up the Spartan wall, it was kind of related to my position as a goalie," Mason says. "We try to build up a wall and not let anything in."
Former NHL goalie and current goaltending coach for the Canadian World Junior team Corey Hirsch had an interesting image from Hollywood on his mask when he played in Vancouver. Hirsch decided to honour one of the early horror movies in having Norman Bates' house on his mask from the movie Psycho. Hirsch is reportedly a big Alfred Hitchcock fan, and his mask certainly reflects that.
New York Islanders goaltender Wade Dubielewicz has Yoda of the Star Wars movies on the back of his mask. When asked why, Dubielewicz replied, "I don't really look like a goalie and Yoda doesn't look like a Jedi Warrior."
In keeping with the Star Wars theme, Mathieu Chouinard wore Chewbacca the Wookie on his mask during his time with the Manchester Monarchs. Chouinard's nickname during the season was "Chewie", and his nickname can be seen on his throat protection.
Perhaps the greatest set of goalie masks comes compliments of a German Elite League team. Dusseldorf employs Jamie Storr and Jochen Reimer as their netminding tandem, and they decided to partner up in their design. Talledega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby was their theme, and you can clearly see the design on their masks: Storr on the left and Reimer on the right. After all, "if you're not first, you're last".
Hannu Toivonen gets two mentions on this list. First, he payed homage to one of the greatest hockey movies ever in Slapshot with this mask, a design based upon Denis Lemieux's mask from the movie. I think this mask is an excellent design, except for the hair and ears. That's a little weird.
Toivonen also gets mention as he'll start the cartoon character section. Toivonen, who nows plays for St. Louis, has images of Piglet and Snoopy on the back of his mask. I haven't found out a reason for these two characters holding the flags of Finland and the USA respectively, but there must be a reason for Toivonen having them on his mask. If anyone knows, please add it to the comment section below.
Another Atlanta Thrashers goaltender makes the list. Pasi Nurminen has worn two different cartoon-themed masks in his NHL career. His first was a Batman-themed mask that had Batman on the right side and The Joker on the left. He also wore a mask with South Park's Eric Cartman on the chin in 2003-04. His 2005 mask had what appeared to be a South Park character on the side as well.
Before he was picked up on waivers by Phoenix, Ilya Bryzgalov had an interesting cartoon character on his mask. Bryzgalov wore Daffy Duck, famous for his appearances in the Warner Brothers cartoons.
However, "Bryz" re-designed his mask, and explained his new mask design to Ducks TV.
Bryz is awesome. Great interview.
Peter Budaj of the Colorado Avalanche has an interesting character on the back of his mask. Budaj has an image of The Simpsons' Ned Flanders on the back plate of his mask. Why Ned Flanders? "It's an inside joke from two years ago," Budaj said to USA Today's Kevin Allen. "Our equpiment manager, Terry Geer, gave me the nickname 'Ned' and he said it would be funny to put it on my mask. He has a Slovakian jersey on and is holding a Slovakian flag."
Jason Bacashihua of the Dallas Stars may have superstitions, but Friday the 13th isn't one of them. Bacashihua wore a Jason Voorhees image on both his masks in Dallas - first in 2003, and then again in 2004.
Patrick Lalime has brought his favorite cartoon character with him where ever he has played. In Ottawa, Lalime started the tradition of having Marvin the Martian on his mask.
"My current design requires a bit of backtracking," Lalime told Kevin Allen. "When I played in Pittsburgh, I had a penguin emerging from a cracked egg and all you could see were the penguin's eyes. When I went to Ottawa, the designer kept the two eyes, using Marvin the Martian from Looney Tunes because Marvin wears a helmet similar to the helmet in the Senators' logo. I liked Marvin, and kept him in St. Louis. When I came to Chicago, Marvin traded in his centurion's helmet for an Indian headdress."
Roberto Luongo was also a cartoon fan when he played for the Florida Panthers. In Florida, Luongo sported a mask that featured the Pink Panther. Not the diamond, but the actual cartoon character. Of course, the team took to this, and would play the Pink Panther theme whenever he made a big stop. The Pink Panther also followed Luongo to the 2004 World Cup of Hockey. His Team Canada-themed mask had the Pink Panther featured on it as well.
Stephen Valiquette of the New York Rangers honours a New York City superhero with his Spiderman mask. "I have Spiderman on my mask because of the character's relationship with New York City," says Valiquette. Ok, it's not the greatest reason, but at least it makes sense.
Josh Harding of the Minnesota Wild wore a well-known cartoon character on the back of his mask last season. Harding had Stewie Griffin of TV's Family Guy on the back of his mask. I was waiting for Harding to utter a "victory shall be mine" comment in an interview, but it never came to be.
The AHL has its share of Hollywood imagery as well. Chris Madden of the Toronto Roadrunners wore Wile E. Coyote on his mask in honour of the Looney Tunes' Roadrunner. For some reason unknown to me, Jason LaBarbera wore Gonzo of The Muppet Show on his mask during the time he spent with the Hartford Wolfpack.
For the last mask, we go back to the international scene. Christian Engstrand, a Swedish goaltender, who plays for Linkopings HC in Sweden has one of four famous reptiles featured on his mask. Engstrand has Raphael of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles displayed on the right side of his mask. I've never known turtles to play hockey, but the artwork is still pretty neat.
It is very apparent that Hollywood imagery plays a large role in the artwork selected by goalies for their masks. Hockey, like movies and cartoons, is entertainment, so bringing the two together seems quite natural. Personally, there are some fabulous mask designs out there, and some of them have been seen here. The designs created by the artists and goalies are top-notch, and certainly worth viewing up close.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!
- thanks to the DaveArt website for some of the mask images. Thanks to The Goalies Archive website for some of the images as well. Thanks to the Itech website for some of the hard-to-find images.