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Behind the Mask: Brent Johnson

by Staff Writer / Washington Capitals
The Capitals obtained goaltender Brent Johnson on waivers from Vancouver on Oct. 4. When Johnson arrived in Washington, he was still sporting pads and gloves in Phoenix Coyotes colors and a facemask with a Coyotes motif and paintjob. The pads and gloves were replaced with the locally familiar blue, black and bronze but the facemask took a bit longer to replace.

alt Johnson’s new facemask recently arrived and we had a brief chat with him about the mask-design process. Johnson’s father [Bob] was a goaltender in the NHL and his grandfather is Hockey Hall of Famer Sid Abel.

Did your dad ever talk to you much about the process of making masks back in his day, with the plaster and the straws and everything?

My dad’s first helmet, his dad made it for him with plaster. He still has the mold from it mounted on a block. It’s something special. Those old fiberglass masks or whatever they were, oh my God! Just looking at them, thin and not even a quarter-inch thick. I would think getting hit on that would hurt more than getting hit just regularly.

How many different masks have you had since you turned pro?
I had three while I was in [AHL] Worcester. I think I went through three when I was in St. Louis. But I used one all the time. After a while the foam breaks down a little bit. Then one in Phoenix and this one.

When you changed in St. Louis was it because the foam was breaking down?
The second year I did it just because the first one I had wasn’t an actual mold of my face. It was kind of loose. It still felt good and comfortable but the next one I got, you can just tell a world of difference when it is molded to your face.

What about the design?
My favorite band is Led Zeppelin. That’s pretty much all I wanted to go with. So I got the symbols of the fours guys, the four band members of Led Zeppelin. And I told them to put some monuments from Washington on there, so I’ve got the Jefferson and the Lincoln.

[The back of Johnson’s new mask features a drawing of the classic Jack Nicholson evil grin from the movie “The Shining” and the exclamation: “Here’s Johnny!”]

alt The painter called me the day before he was going to ship it to me and said, ‘I’ve got an idea. What do you think about putting Here’s Johnny! on the back of it?’ I liked that.

How long from conception to delivery?
The paint job, the guy ripped it off in four days. He did pretty good. Honestly, I think he probably would have liked a little more time to work on his craft. But he did a great job with it for that amount of time. Because another painter had it for two months and wasn’t sure what he was going to do with it. And he didn’t realize that I needed it. Then he shipped it off to the other guy two weeks ago and then I just got it.

As far as motif goes, obviously the city and the team you are with have a lot to do with it. Have you always had Zeppelin on yours?
Yeah, I’ve always had Zeppelin since my first helmet in the NHL. I’ve always had “Johnny” on the back and usually I have a #12 on the back to signify my grandfather’s [uniform] number. The guy didn’t do it so I’m going to put a little sticker on here.
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