When it came to designing a Winter Classic mask for New York Rangers
backup Martin Biron
, the idea of a tribute to Gilles Gratton
jumped out for a lot of reasons.
Not only was the infamous ex-Rangers goalie a noted character – and with a nickname like "Gratoony the Loony" that may be an understatement – but like the player himself, Gratton's iconic 1976-77 Lion mask was one of the first "out there" paint jobs in the NHL. Add in the fact Gratton and Biron, also a noted character, were born within an hour's drive of each other in Quebec and are both Leos, and paying homage to it was a no-brainer.
"And Marty's middle name is Gaston, which even sounds like Gratton, so that's another really weird thing," joked Biron's personal painter, Steve Nash of EyeCandyAir. "As soon as we heard that the Rangers were playing the Winter Classic, Marty and I agreed it made sense because Gratton's mask was probably the coolest old Rangers mask we could think of, and we wanted something big and bold that would really stand out."
The tribute to Gratton's iconic mask also works on a personal level for Nash. The original was done by Greg Harrison, the Godfather of modern mask making, and helped spawn today's trend of heavily personalized, intricately detailed lids throughout hockey.
"For painted masks that was one of the first freaky designs, one of the most elaborate ones that stood out and was spooky and really the first take-charge lids," said Nash, who thinks the multiple layers of brown fur on Biron's tribute mask will nicely match the retro-brown pads and gloves he plans to wear. "As a guy who makes his living painting masks now, it's a chance to pay homage to one of the masks that started the trend, to be part of the history of the mask. It's a true classic."