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A tale of two masks

by Jen Sharpe / Edmonton Oilers
Dwayne Roloson's new vintage mask -- designed by Matt Garland of Pro-Masque Inc. --  is a replica of Grant Fuhr's classic Oilers cage, complete with scuffs and scratches.
Mathieu Garon's new vintage mask, designed by Sylvie Poitras of Airbrush Zap, features photos of Bill Ranford (top) and Grant Fuhr.

Mathieu Garon will wear this mask -- featuring a stylized oil drop and dragons on either side -- throughout the upcoming season.

When the Oilers take to the ice against Colorado this Sunday, not only will fans witness the debut of the 2008-09 squad, they will also witness the debut of the club’s third “retro” jerseys. Though the entire team is eager to don the classic blue and orange, goalies Dwayne Roloson and Mathieu Garon are taking their tribute to another level by complimenting their vintage-style equipment with eye-catching new masks.

Channeling the great Grant Fuhr is Roloson. With historical action photos as a reference, Roloson’s new set of pads, blocker, glove, and mask are decidedly old-school, featuring blue, orange, and white colour-blocking for that unmistakable Fuhr flare.

Bill Ranford is Garon’s source of inspiration. Predominantly blue pads and equipment compliment #32’s new mask, which features Ranford’s photo on one side and Fuhr’s on the other.

Though both goalies will be wearing the new gear with pride, they played very different roles in the development of these special masks.

According to mask artist Sylvie Poitras, Garon was hands-on throughout the entire process.

“I always send photos to my goalies to show them the evolution of their mask, and so that way they can tell me what they like or what they don’t like,” she explains. “Mathieu tells me that he doesn’t have any ideas, but once we get going, he has a lot of good suggestions. We decided to do a blend of Fuhr’s mask and Ranford’s mask and we also decided to put the faces of each goalie on either side of the mask. I proposed this to Mathieu and gave me the go-ahead.”

Roloson, on the other hand, likes to be surprised.

“He never knows what he’s getting on his mask until he opens up the box, and it’s always been that way,” designer Matt Garland explains. “Usually a lot of NHL goalies have a lot of say and they’re really particular, but we do all the design work on Roli’s mask. It’s kind of a lot of pressure when you consider that 50 million people are going to be looking at it this year, but we always seem to come up with something that he likes.”

While Poitras has only worked with Garon on two projects – his special vintage mask and a new mask that he will wear throughout the season (see exclusive sneak peak photo at right!) – Garland has been Roloson’s designer for decades. Despite boasting an impressive list of NHL clientele, Garland says he was especially excited about the prospect of recreating Fuhr’s iconic Oilers cage.

“We’ve done masks for Roli since he was a freshman in college, and we’ve made his mask ever since then. I always talk with Barry (Stafford, Head Equipment Manager) about the new masks, and he had mentioned about the retro jerseys back in the early summer. We thought about making a take-off of Grant Fuhr’s mask, but we really wanted to add a twist to this like nobody ever has.”

That twist was to do some damage.

“We went for the most basic Oilers design you can find and then we banged it all up,” Garland explains. “We spent about three weeks painting it and carrying it around with kid gloves and then we just hacked the crap out of it. And that took a lot of thinking too. We were trying to figure out what we should put where and how much and what marks would go where. We really tried to make it look nasty, but when it was done, it just looked terrific.”

Roloson is thrilled with the results.

“It’s an awesome, awesome replica,” he raves. “From day one, Matty has been wanting to do it, and he got the opportunity. He was like a little kid going back into the shop for the first time and getting the opportunity to do a mask that he loved so much as a kid. When I talked to him, he said he was so ecstatic about doing this mask, and for him it was probably one of the best things that he’s ever done and probably the happiest he’s ever felt having a mask come out of his shop.”

Garon is equally pleased with his vintage mask and is looking forward to pairing it with the third jerseys on Sunday.

“I really like it and I think it will fit in perfectly with the retro jerseys and equipment,” he says. “I think it’s great to go back to the old colours like that. As a player, we were watching the Oilers in the 80’s and I think the fans are going to like it too.”

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