As soon as Henrik Lundqvist found out about the Rangers' 1994 tribute night, the idea began to percolate.
"Right away, we talked about maybe doing a mask," said the Rangers netminder. And he knew exactly what he wanted: a reimagining of the iconic mask worn by Mike Richter, the Hall of Famer who manned the net for the Rangers' 1994 Stanley Cup Champion team.
Next came a phone call to renowned goalie mask artist David Gunnarsson. Lundqvist described his vision: a replica of Richter's mask on one side and a tribute to Richter himself on the other side, with Richter's legendary Statue of Liberty design emblazoned on the top.
"I've seen that mask here at the rink so many times," Lundqvist said. "I remember pictures, too. So I definitely wanted that part of it and then also a piece of Richter himself on one side.
"This is probably one of the most iconic Ranger masks ever, I think - Mike Richter, '94. Very easy to recognize."
Lundqvist will wear the specialty mask on Friday, Feb. 8 against the Hurricanes for the 25th Anniversary of the 1994 Championship presented by Chase. The night will begin with a pregame ceremony honoring the entire 1994 roster at 6:30 PM.
"'94 was such a special year for the Rangers - very special team, too," Lundqvist said. "If you look at all the players that played for that team, it was an All-Star team, almost. Mike was obviously a huge part of that team. So it's kind of cool to get this opportunity to honor that team, with the game and with the mask."
Richter, who played all 666 games of his career with the Rangers, is painted both in portrait and in action on the mask, a process that took Gunnarsson weeks to complete.
"Oh, it is many, many hours," Gunnarsson said. "First, we discuss and brainstorm ideas, and after that, I make a sketch of how the design can be created. After [Lundqvist] has approved the sketch, I start to paint."
Once the painted mask is nearly completed, Gunnarsson sends a video - complete with 360-degree views - to the client, who provides a final stamp of approval.
"I love this process and how to create a story on each mask," Gunnarsson said. He was especially honored to tell the story of such an iconic character in Rangers lore.
"It is a total tribute to him with both a homage to his classic mask design and painting of Richter himself," Gunnarsson said. "It was extra cool for me to paint this mask because I was a big fan of Richter growing up."
Gunnarsson also created a mask for backup goalie Alexandar Georgiev, and it, too, honors Richter's original design with a Statue of Liberty replica on top - but with a twist.
"Just like Richter had the Statue of Liberty on the top, we also placed her on the top, but created as a Russian Matryoshka doll since Georgiev has that on his current and regular Rangers masks," Gunnarsson said.
Georgiev's mask also features a stone wall on one side and a snippet of the 1994 jersey on the chin.
"I think it's pretty sharp," Georgiev said. "Too bad I can wear it only for one game."
Georgiev is eager to take in Friday's celebration - the sights, the sounds - but he's also hoping he might get the opportunity to connect with Richter and some of his teammates.
"They're absolute legends," he said. "It's always exciting for the fans and for us to see them, maybe hear some stories from those '94 times."
When '94 Night has come and gone and life returns to business as usual, the masks will go on the shelf - but not for long.
"I think we're going to auction it off for charity," Lundqvist said. "So it'll be hopefully a good game, and a good auction item for a good cause."