A young, wide-eyed Jordan Binnington remembers when Maple Leafs goaltender Curtis Joseph would show up to train at the Franco Canadian Goalie School in Toronto.
"I was a Leafs fan. Growing up in Toronto, you pretty much had to be," Binnington told stlouisblues.com. "My dad put me in that goalie school for nine weeks every summer for six or seven years, and there were some days when 'Cujo' would come in and train there. He would bring a 24-pack of waters on the ice with him. Not very eco-friendly nowadays but you get the point. It was great for us young goalies to be able to see him work like that. He had a unique competitive style. I liked his helmet, his pads. I was a fan."
At the time, Joseph's mask with the Maple Leafs was a sleek, more modern take on the rabid dog mask he originally debuted during his playing days with the Blues in the mid-1990s. Binnington fell in love with the design and it wasn't long before he asked his dad to buy him a youth hockey mask with a custom paint job similar to Joseph's.
"My dad still has that one," Binnington said with a smile. "I'll have to show you a picture of it."
Those days of summer goalie camps are now long gone - Binnington is more than just a student of the game now. After getting his chance in the NHL last January, the 26-year-old goaltender put together an impressive run that culminated in a Stanley Cup championship last summer - the first-ever in the Blues' 52-year history.
For his next trick, Binnington is bringing his own vision of that iconic "Cujo" mask back to the Blues.
Binnington's is an even more modern take on the rabid dog design and features giant fangs and the same bold blue and yellows that made Joseph's original design so iconic. On the right side of Binnington's mask is a portrait of Joseph himself, along with a pencil-drawn action shot of the former Blues goaltender. The "Cujo" logo, which features the blue, yellow and reds of the Blues' late 90's uniforms, also adorns the right side of the mask.
"It's cool," Binnington said. "'Cujo' was a big part of my childhood motivation. It's cool to be in a position where I'm able to wear a mask resembling his and give a small gratitude to the influence he had on not only me but cities of people."
The mask was designed by David Gunnarsson of DaveArt, who has now created four masks for Binnington and also is responsible for several more for Jake Allen. Binnington will wear the "Cujo" mask for three home games this season - Nov. 21, Feb. 27 and March 31 - the same dates the Blues will wear their 90's-era throwback jerseys. In addition, he will be sporting blue pads, a blue blocker and glove, which will also feature splashes of red to match the jersey.
"David did an incredible job," Binnington said of the mask. "We usually go back and forth a little bit in the design process. He sends me his sketches, and I give him a thumbs up or make a little tweak or addition or something, but I don't have to tell him much.
"He really just understands what I'm going for."
Since joining the Blues in January, Binnington has always carried a signature swagger. Now he'll have some snarl, too.