The 2010 Olympics inspired the design of a new goalie mask
Canucks netminder Andrew Raycroft just doesn’t want to lose any chiclets.
Up until this point he’s been fairly successful at keeping his smile intact, pucks have flown at his head, but luckily he’s always had a mask on to deflect the damage.
That’s all a mask is to Raycroft, a force field for his face.
To 99 per cent of goalies who bravely (or foolishly) stand in the line of fire, their mask is an extension of self. In the same way a guitarist customizes their axe, a goalie puts their personal stamp on a mask, some in painstaking detail.
Raycroft falls in the one per cent that just doesn’t care.
“To be honest, I’ve never really cared,” smiled Raycroft, each pearly white in place.
“It’s always in the middle of the summer when you have to think of something for the design and that’s really the last thing you’re thinking about is what you want painted on your mask.”
Going with a blank white eyesore of a mask clearly wasn’t an option, so Raycroft reached out to Voodoo Airbrushing, an Ontario company that specializes in creative design, fabrication and custom paint application and finishing on every object imaginable.
Voodoo responded with an Olympic themed idea that embraced the 2010 Games being in Vancouver, Raycroft’s new home.
“I’m not very creative, my ideas aren’t very creative, I’m more of a math guy, a numbers guy, so I left that to the guys that know what they’re doing and they came up with this Olympic idea.
“Obviously I’m not going to play on any more teams that have the Olympics in their city in my career, so I thought I’d put some Canadian Olympic sports on it.”
The result is a one-of-a-kind grill fit for the starting goaltender of Canada’s men’s Olympic hockey team. That won’t be Raycroft, but he’s dressing the part anyways.
The mask is baby blue and white in colour and it features five images, all with Olympic roots. The left side has a snowboarder carving around a flag at the top and a skeleton competitor fearlessly rifling downhill on the bottom. The right side has a downhill skier gliding through fresh powder at the top and the Canadian bobsled team tearing downhill midway down the side to the bottom. Front and centre on the forehead of the mask is an inukshuk, a traditional stone sculpture used by Canada's Inuit people that is the official logo of the 2010 Games.
Both sides also feature Inuit designs in white that can only be seen in the right light.
“I’m really happy with how it came out, although I might put some Canucks stuff on it. I might just mix in a whale or a lumberjack or something. I’m not too fussy though, as long as it keeps my teeth in my head, I’m pretty happy.”
Looking back through the archives of the masks Raycroft has sported in the past, the 29-year-old has never really had a flair for the dramatic.
His first NHL mask, as a member of the Boston Bruins, was plain and simple. He had a huge snarling, ready to attack, bruin on top, Bruins printed down the sides of the chin and the Boston skyline and Boston Garden on the left and right.
Raycroft’s third NHL mask followed the same theme. Playing for the Colorado Avalanche, Raycroft opted for the Avs logo on top, the team’s foot logo on the chin and some kind of angry yeti attacking both sides.
The one exception to Raycroft’s standard masks was the one he wore while with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
In Boston and Colorado he let others come up with the design, but in Toronto the Ontario native felt a spark of creativity so he etched everything out himself.
“That was the only one that I really had a lot of say in, I came up with the whole idea,” said Raycrof, who is a big fan of the iconic Gerry Cheevers stitches mask and former San Jose goalie Brian Hayward’s shark mask.
“The mask paid tribute to former Leafs like Felix Potvin, Mike Palmateer, Johnny Bower, Wendel Clark and Doug Gilmour, and then it had Maple Leaf Gardens right in the middle.
“Frank Cipra painted it and he did an unbelievable job with the faces, they were extremely real and they were some really good profiles. That was the one creative idea I’ve ever come up with so I’m proud of that one and it seemed to go over pretty well.”
Despite claiming not to care about his masks, Raycroft has kept them all and they’re currently back home in Belleville, Ont., under the watchful eye of his parents.
“My dad’s got close to 10 of them now in the basement somewhere. It’s pretty cool to have around and that’s really the only thing I’ve kept. Keeping pads and stuff like that just gets annoying and kind of in the way so the masks are the one cool thing I’ve kept over the years.”
While it seems a bit hypocritical for Raycroft to put little effort into the design of most of his masks, yet keep them under lock and key after they’ve served their time, keep in mind that his teeth are all still perfectly aligned.
Sweet designs or not, the masks did their job and he’s now ensuring they’re treated well in retirement.