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Season of change

by Jen Rollins / Vancouver Canucks
Hockey and traditions go hand in hand. There are traditions of winning and excellence, and traditions around the rink—lacing up left, then right, and wearing the same, worn socks game after game. Traditions and routines are as big a part of hockey as face-offs, line changes and five-for-fighting.

For Canucks net-minder, Curtis Sanford, that sense of tradition and routine helped usher in an unprecedented goalie mask contest on

“I use a new mask every year,” Sanford said.

Citing safety reasons as the main reason for an annual change (those masks take a lot of abuse over the course of a hockey season), Curtis said his typical approach to designing a new mask starts with he and his wife, Malinda, brainstorming then taking those ideas to an artist.

“Basically I give the painter ideas and then they’re pretty artistically inclined so I have them play around with it and see what they come up with. I’m not really too picky on the outcome—just the idea behind it,” Sanford said.

It was that same process that brought Sanford his “Sandman” mask worn last season and the four seasons prior. In hockey terms, five seasons is a long time. For that reason, Sanford decided to break away from tradition and give creative license to the fans.

“The masks are supposed to mean something to the goalie—and of course it does—but I just thought [the contest] was a pretty cool idea,” Sanford said.

The idea originated from an end-of-season dinner conversation with Media Relations Director, TC Carling. Sanford had mentioned his desire to have the fans put together his next mask. When the Canucks re-signed him, Carling brought up the contest idea right away, and it just took off.

“I expected to get some really well thought-out designs, but…I didn’t expect there to be as many as there were,” Sanford said.

At contest’s end, Sanford had looked through over 300 designs from as far as Scotland to right in his own backyard.

One of those came from local artist, Darcy Patko. His drawing made it all the way into the top-ten. For Darcy, the contest meant more than just some face-time.

“As soon as I saw [the contest], I knew I had to do it—even if it meant sacrificing a weekend or two. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Patko said.

Patko, like many other artists, jumped at the opportunity to combine talents with a lifelong passion for the Canucks.

It was that passion which inspired ultimate contest-winner, Kirk Car, to enter. The Commercial Fisherman battled the elements to get his drawing submitted.

“When we finish fishing for the day we’re just rolling around and if it’s not too bad I’m always drawing up all my paintings before I paint them,” Car said.

Thankfully, the weather cooperated and Car was able to enter the eventual-winner. Maybe it was something in the water, but wherever the magic came from, it was enough to catch Sanford’s eye.

“I got it down to ten and was like, wow, I could put any of these on my mask and it would look great being a design for me. The one I chose, I just looked at it and even though it was just a rough sketch in pencil, I could see it in colour and on my mask right away, so I thought that was definitely the one,” Sanford said.

A big part of Sanford’s ultimate choice spawned from originality. Rather than keeping with the same Sandman theme, Sanford wanted to make his mask more about the team and the city. For Sanford, Car’s design was exactly what the doctor ordered.

After selecting the design, Sanford turned to I-tech certified airbrush artist, Ian Johnson to bring it to life. Sanford and Johnson tweaked the design a bit. They added team colours, Sanford’s jersey number, and a few personal touches like a Totem Pole with his wife and two sons’ initials, and the Japanese character for good fortune.

Now, with finished product in hand, and ready for his second go in Vancouver, Sanford and his new mask, new contract and new teammates are good to go. Just don’t tell The Sandman.

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