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The Goalie's New Clothes

by Staff Writer / Buffalo Sabres
Pads, check. Blocker, check. Glove, check. Mask…

Ryan Miller's equipment checklist for the regular season was finally completed this week. After a month of anticipating and waiting, the Sabres second-year netminder received his freshly painted mask for the 2006-07 season from Bishop Designs,

Miller had been in the process of converting his equipment to Buffalo's new color scheme, and only needed his mask, the most time consuming and personalized part of that process, to complete the set.

"I've been working with Ray for eight years, so it's just something where I can call him up and he kind of knows what I'm thinking," said Miller. "We've done plenty of masks together, probably 11 or 12, and he does a good job of interpreting what you like."

Bishop, whose clientele in the past has included Ed Belfour, Dominik Hasek, Tom Barrasso, Nikolai Khabibulin, Marty Turco and Curtis Joseph, is a graphic-design artist with 20-plus years of experience that specializes in not only stylizing hockey gear but motorcycles and automobiles as well.

When approaching Bishop with his most current assignment, Miller explained that he didn't want to stray from his mask's classic look, which has stayed constant since he entered the professional ranks four years ago.

Minuscule adjustments with minor details of the artwork, excluding the color scheme, were all the changes that he required.

"I just told him to adapt where you can with the new logo," Miller said. "Make the lines a little sharper and maybe define the horns and the eyes a little more.

"He just ran with it and I trusted his artistic vision."

Similar to a "Where's Waldo" book, those adaptations were so microscopic that they can only be discovered under heavy inspection.

Smooth lines of the old mask were made jagged to match Buffalo's new logo, while the modern sabres on the chin were replaced with the retro look of the sabres on the third jersey.

The overall design of the helmet remained a buffalo head with piercing red eyes.

"The core concept is there," said Miller. "The great thing about [Bishop's] artwork is that it really comes through as you are watching from farther away. You appreciate what the concept is without being close."

Miller wanted his mask to remain an extension of himself, so the rear portion was adorned with personal symbolism.

An outline of the state of Michigan with USA Hockey's logo with the star directly over Miller's hometown of East Lansing was placed in the top-left corner.

In the top-right corner, the silhouette of a lizard symbolizes Miller's philosophy of not thinking but reacting on the ice.

Explained Miller: "Animals don't think about doing things, they just react. That just represents what you have to be on the ice. You can't just sit there and over think everything; you just have to play."

"Miller Time," a play-on-words with the goaltender's last name takes center stage.

At the base of the mask's backside, the wording "Matt Man" and a cartoon bulldog wearing a Michigan State sweater are a constant reminder of Miller's ailing cousin, Matt.

"[Matt] always loved bulldogs and he actually just got one," said Miller. "He's sick with Leukemia.

"That's my representation of him. He needs to be tough, he needs to be a bulldog and battle through it."
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