A goaltender’s mask is one of the most unique pieces of equipment in sports. In the 50 years that NHL goalies have been wearing them, many goalies have personalized theirs to reflect what's near and dear to them.
Coyotes goalie Jason LaBarbera
says personalizing a mask has become quite a process.
“I love getting a new design,” LaBarbera said. “I’m not the most creative guy, but it’s kind of fun to come up with something different every year. The artist that I have, David Arrigo, does an amazing job; he’s really good at communicating and coming up with ideas."
LaBarbera says he keeps tabs of the design process and has a final say in what the design looks like.
“He sends pictures as he goes along, more like computer pictures, how it might look and then we kind of change things as we go," LaBarbera said. "So, he’s really good at doing that.”
LaBarbera’s mask has several elements rolled into one.
“I usually stick to some kind of music theme. I like listening to music,” LaBarbera said. “Everyone has a favorite band, mine’s Metallica. Every year I’ve always had some type of Metallica theme on there, so this year I have James Hetfield on the one side, and on the back I have St. Anger Fist, the album from a couple years ago. I actually have a tattoo of St. Anger Fist, so I guess you can say I’m a bit of a Metallica fan.”
LaBarbera's mask also features other music and pop culture elements.
“On the other side I have Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam, and then as a kid growing up I was a big wrestling fan so on the top I have the Ultimate Warrior,” LaBarbera said. “I had a poster of him when I was younger; he was my favorite wrestler growing up, so I put him on there as something different. You've got to add things that you like.”
LaBarbera says that he prefers the unique goalie designs over the generic ones, and that he loves to display what he’s worn through the years.
“A guy like Marty Brodeur is known for his helmet because he’s had the same one forever,” LaBarbera said. “A lot of guys are pretty generic about what they have. Some guys don’t even care; they just let the artist do whatever.”
He added, “I’d be bored if I wore the same mask every year. It’s fun, too, because you collect them. I have them at home on my mantle, so it’s cool.”
Despite having a new design every season, the one constant on LaBarbera's masks through the years have been the initials of his family members.
“It’s kind of a calm and safe thing that you have, that you just look at and reminds you of good things.”