GLENDALE - One of Antti Raanta's goalie coaches gave him the nickname Rantanplan when he was 15 and learning his craft in Finland. It's a nod to a silly prison guard dog from a Belgian cartoon named Lucky Luke.
The nickname stuck, so much so that Raanta has incorporated the Rantanplan character into his NHL goalie masks throughout the years. Not surprisingly, Rantanplan is featured prominently on Raanta's new mask with the Coyotes, wearing a cowboy hat and driving a locomotive through the Arizona desert.
Raanta debuted his new mask last Saturday in his first preseason game with the Coyotes.
Raanta's mask, designed and painted by Swedish artist David Gunnarsson, was waiting for him when he arrived for training camp. Rannta fell in love with it immediately.
"It's a fun mask," Raanta said. "It was a really exciting moment when I got to wear it for the first time. Of course you have to go and check it out in front of a mirror to see how it looks in different ways. That's always so fun to do."
Raanta reached out to Gunnarsson soon after he was traded to the Coyotes from the New York Rangers in June. Soon after the trade, he began to receive ideas and sketches from Gunnarsson.
"He's brilliant," Raanta said of Gunnarsson, who designs and paints masks for many NHL goalies. "He has so many different ideas and they're all so good. Sometimes it's hard to pick just one. Every mask tells a little bit of a different story, and I think Dave is the best in the business when creating the story."
The backplate of Raanta's mask features his daughter Evelyn's name and birthday on the left side, and the crest of his hometown, Rauma, on the right side.
Raanta is proud to add his new Coyotes mask to the collection of masks he's worn in his career.
"Whenever I get a big enough home in Finland, I'm going to do a man cave with all the masks and jerseys that I've worn," Raanta said with a smile. "It's a cool way to remember the years that you've played."