CALGARY -- David Arrigo has designed his fair share of goaltender masks over the past 11 years, but perhaps none more unique than the one Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price will sport Sunday in the 2011 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic.
Should one of the Calgary Flames come bearing in alone on Price, he won't only be trying to solve a two-time All-Star netminder, he'll be staring down another legend of the position in Jacques Plante.
And it's guaranteed Plante won't blink. That's because his eyes are painted on Price's mask.
"The funny thing is, when he came to me with the idea of putting Jacques Plante on there, I wasn't sure, but then once we started doing it, we were like, 'perfect,'" said Arrigo, a Toronto-based artist. "We've got Jacques Plante's eyes on the forehead, Jacques Plante's mouth and then Carey's ears on the side."
Price actually credited Arrigo and "a buddy of mine" for coming up with the concept, but one thing's for sure -- it's a conversation starter.
"It kind of looks a little creepy, actually," Price said with a laugh.
He lauded the work of Arrigo, who also designed former Flames goalie Mike Vernon's mask for Saturday's Alumni Game as well as the Heritage Classic game program. Arrigo's association with the NHL began at the 2000 All-Star Game in Toronto and the League has turned to him ever since to paint murals and come up with creative designs for its various signature events.
Arrigo's big break came at the 2007 All-Star Game in Dallas during an encounter with the father of goalie Mike Smith, who played for the Stars at the time.
"His father approached me and asked if I painted masks," Arrigo said. "And I said no, and he literally gave me a plain white mask and said, 'Now you do.' So I painted up a custom Christmas mask for Mike -- it was a Grinch -- and it got a lot of media play."
In the years since, Arrigo has also designed masks for Brent Johnson, Jaroslav Halak, Antero Niittymaki and Antti Niemi, among others. Brian Elliott, another one of Arrigo's clients, already called him after being traded by Ottawa to Colorado on Friday to see about getting a new mask painted once Arrigo gets back to Toronto.
Price first met Arrigo at the 2009 All-Star Game in Montreal.
"My agent and a couple of my friends, they got to know him pretty well and he does pretty good work," Price said. "He doesn't only just paint goalie masks, he actually does artwork and stuff, so it's pretty neat. We've done a few interesting concepts together."
Arrigo estimated they've designed about seven masks since they began working together.
"Fantastic," he said when asked what it's been like working with Price. "I'm fortunate enough that I'm able to become buddies somewhat with a lot of my goalies. Some of them will come into my studio during the summer and we talk about designs. Carey's excellent to work with because he's very focused and he knows what he's looking for. So when I send him the designs he's on the mark and he says, change this, change that, and I haven't had an issue yet that he didn't like something."
Canadiens forward Mike Cammalleri, who is in his second season as a teammate of Price, didn't know quite what to make of Arrigo's latest creation.
"He said they actually took pictures of the side of his head to create his ears, so it looks like a natural old mask or something," Cammalleri said. "I was like, 'What do you mean, when they didn't wear masks?' I must be missing the concept."
"Whatever mask that helps him to perform I think is the key," Montreal coach Jacques Martin said. "I think it'll be a unique experience for him."
This mask is a one-off deal that Price will wear solely for the Heritage Classic. He was given the opportunity to hedge on that when asked if a win Sunday might change his mind, but declined.
"I'm not very superstitious," Price said, "so I'll probably be right back to my old one."