I don’t believe Jacques Plante was aware of the trend he created when he first put on a mask. The goalie was struck in the face with a puck, and would not return to the ice unless his face was covered. Nowadays, the mask still serves its original purpose: to protect. But it’s also become a form of expression, or in some cases (check out Gary Bromley’s below), a way to intimidate. Here are some of our favorite, and most badass, masks from throughout the years.
Ed Belfour had become known for the eagles on his helmets. The two bald eagles on each side of the mask followed him from team to team throughout his career, from Chicago, to Dallas to Toronto, and even inspired his nickname, Eddie the Eagle. Belfour chose the eagle because it was his favorite bird, but also because it represented leadership and confidence.
What can we say, the force was definitely with Bryzgalov throughout his 14 year career, and perhaps the Yoda on his mask did help. Yoda took up one side, on the other side of the mask, the dark side took over. But the original mask, which portrayed Yoda in Flyers colors (reds and oranges) drew some heat from Lucas Films, and a new mask was created showing Yoda holding the jedi-like green lightsaber instead.
It’s hard to forget Antero Niittymaki’s Nitti mask. While with the Flyers, the Finnish goalie featured his nickname on his helmet, with a drawing of another guy named Nitty: Frank “the Enforcer” Nitty from the Godfather. The mask shows the Enforcer smoking a cigar while firing his tommy gun, with bullet shells falling.
Gerry Cheevers’ stitch mask proves a point: Jacques Plante was correct in refusing to get back on the ice without a mask. Cheevers’ stitch mask started after he was struck in the face during practice, he then had his trainer draw a stitch where he would have had to get real stitches if he weren’t wearing a mask. And so it continued, until the mask was covered with stitches.
Petr Mrazek may not be the most well known goalie in the league, but he has one of the best masks. Mrazek’s helmet features Peter from Family Guy, ripping his shirt open to unveil that he is none other than Superman – a contrast from the actual Peter in the show. Mrazek once said he wasn’t a big fan of the show, but he shares a name with the character and played for the Grand Rapid Griffins (Griffin is also the family name on the show).
Steve Valiquette may have had a short career, but his spiderman mask lives on. The goalie chose to feature the crime fighter, whose colors match the Ranger’s red, white and blue. Spidey’s eyes watch the ice as Valiquette guards the net, and the Statue of Liberty always shone on the side.
Peter Budaj may switch up his helmet every once in awhile, but one thing almost always remains constant: Ned Flanders is on the mask. The iconic Simpsons character has been featured in different ways, as a fighter pilot, with a crown on his head or as a goalie himself.
Gary Bromley’s bones mask is actually terrifying. His mask resembles his nickname “bones,” and looks like a skeleton that resembles the grim reaper more than a hockey goalie. His career may have been short lived, but his mask still haunts us.
Steve Mason has a thing with zombies. The goalie has had several masks with zombies, including one that pays tribute to Flyers’ legends, such as Bobby Clarke. Other helmets showcased his teammates as zombies, and one had historical American figures like George Washington and Ben Franklin. He’s even had a zombie Al Capone helping him guard the net.
It’s becoming harder to think of new ideas for goalie masks. But Jonas Hiller was able to be creative and make a statement with his Movember mask. The helmet featured different Ducks players with funky mustaches and promotes the movement, which helps raise awareness of cancers that affect men. In 2011, Hiller’s mask went viral even before he had a chance to debut it on the ice.