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Unmasked

Updated gear a priority for goalies when traded

Having matching equipment helps to fit in with new team

by Kevin Woodley / NHL.com Independent Correspondent

Forget about learning a new system or getting to know teammates, sometimes the first priority for a newly traded NHL goalie is making sure his equipment matches.

Thankfully, they have a lot of help in that department. Whether it's graphic designers coming up with a new look within hours of a trade, equipment company reps starting the process of manufacturing the gear the same day, or NHL equipment managers finding ways to temporarily cover up old gear, a lot goes into helping them fit in.

Make no mistake, it matters to most goalies that they look the part.

"Just to look like you belong," said Louis Domingue, who was traded by the New Jersey Devils to the Vancouver Canucks prior to the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline on Monday, and worried how his existing red-and-black gear would fit with his new team's blue-and-green color scheme. "It would have been like going out to dinner and looking like a Christmas tree if you had green, red and black on. You'd look a little bit like you don't know what you're doing."

Fortunately for Domingue, there was a nearby alternative because he joined the Canucks in Montreal, where he lives in the offseason and was storing white-and-blue gear from playing for the Tampa Bay Lightning last season. He asked his dad to bring it to the hotel before his first morning skate. 

"You could call it a match made in heaven," Domingue said, adding that matching gear wouldn't have been possible if he joined the Canucks in any other city. "I was lucky."

Goalies who aren't as lucky rely on others to help them match as soon as possible. 

Within a half hour of being traded by the Chicago Blackhawks to the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday, Robin Lehner heard from Chris Joswiak, pro services representative from Brian's Custom Sports, the company that makes Lehner's pads and gloves. They chatted about preferences for his new Vegas gear, and Joswiak worked with independent graphic designer Brennan Rudd to come up with eight to 10 options. By the end of the day, after some back-and-forth edits, Lehner posted his preference to his Twitter account with a "yay or nay" caption, and by 6 a.m. Tuesday, the materials were being cut and sewn at the factory in Ontario.

The new pads have several personal touches, including the #SameHere hashtag featured on Lehner's mask to promote mental health initiatives sewn into the side, and a panda embroidered into the back of the pad to honor the nickname he picked up while playing for the Blackhawks.

"I did receive a late-night text hoping to incorporate playing cards, but we simply had to move forward without it for this set due to timing constraints," Joswiak said.

The entire set was scheduled to be built by Thursday and shipped to the NHL offices in Toronto, where every piece of goalie equipment is inspected by senior director of hockey operations Kay Whitmore. Barring the need for changes, it gets shipped from there to the Golden Knights, and Lehner, who historically doesn't need much time to break in a set before using it in a game. In the meantime, Lehner's predominantly black-with-red-trim Blackhawks equipment doesn't look conspicuously out place, especially with gray material covering a couple small green strips.

Jack Campbell wasn't as fortunate after being traded by the Los Angeles Kings to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Feb. 6. While Campbell waited on new pads and gloves that were rushed into production by Vaughn Hockey, the Maple Leafs got help transforming his old Kings-colored gear. The silver accents on Campbell's pads and gloves were covered using PadSkinz, which is essentially a sticker kit for goalie gear, with synthetic leather to cover the face of pads and a nylon material for the sides. When Campbell started his first game two days after the trade, it was hard to tell he wasn't wearing new Toronto-themed gear without seeing the trim and backing.

That type of transformation isn't reserved only for traded goalies, either. 

When the Carolina Hurricanes wore throwback Hartford Whalers jerseys on the second end of back-to-back games Jan. 11, equipment manager Jorge Alves, who also serves as the team's practice goalie, wanted to make sure James Reimer looked the part, so he spent the night transforming his gear with Pad Wrap, a product similar to PadSkinz.

"Look good, feel good, play good," said Brian Anderson, owner of Philly Custom Sports, which makes Pad Wrap. "We got our first big NHL goalie break when Jacob Markstrom used it after being traded to the Canucks [in 2014] and now a lot of teams keep it in stock, especially in the [American Hockey League], for trades or call-ups."

Mask options have undergone a similar transformation in recent years. Gone are the days when Jose Theodore used strips of white tape and 13 small Minnesota Wild stickers to cover up an old Washington Capitals mask mummy style after signing shortly before the start of the 2010-11 season. 

The Maple Leafs covered Campbell's mask in a custom vinyl wrap from Mario Design, a company that wraps everything from cars to windows to goalie masks.

Alves used a more generic mask wrap from Padskinz for Reimer's mask, adding Whalers logos on the side and a Transformers symbol on the chin for his "Optimus Reim" nickname. Malcolm Subban wore a similar kit with Blackhawks logos at his first practice after he was acquired by Chicago in the Lehner trade. 

Domingue said he was having one of his masks wrapped in Canucks colors before they play in Toronto on Saturday.

"That has really evolved the past few years," Domingue said. "It used to be a generic wrap your trainer put on. Now they can do custom designs in a couple days."

It all helps them fit in quickly -- and not look like a Christmas tree.

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