In hockey, particularly in the last 20 years, it's easy for players to look the same. Gone are days when certain haircuts, facial hair arrangements or faces were identifiable from the crowd or on television. The sweeping changes to equipment — particularly helmets and face shields — have done away with much of the personality that is immediate and obvious.
One nice advent of this revolution, however, has been the notoriety a goaltender can gain for his mask style. Going back to Gerry Cheevers' stitches and through to Gilles Gratton's infamous tiger, the mask has become a way for goaltenders to become iconic.
Famous patterns like Ed Belfour's eagles can be recalled by virtually any hockey fan. Brian Hayward only appeared in 25 games for the San Jose Sharks but his Great White mask is considered one of the greatest of all time. Even Chris Osgood's 'Helmet' is synonymous with his career.
Now, while goalies don't necessarily attach themselves to particular designs like they used to, technology and artistry have advanced to a point where they can have quite a bit more creativity with their concepts and appearance.
Robin Lehner hasn't been with the Senators for a particularly long time, but over his four seasons he has sported multiple mask designs. Robin is very involved in the mask design process and makes sure his designer knows all of his ideas.
Many fans will note that his latest design is considerably darker than some of his previous iterations. His 2013 mask uses a matte finish which takes away much of the shine you get from a traditional mask. If this mask looks heavy metal to you, it means they nailed it. It is a tribute to Swedish metal band In Flames who come from Robin's hometown Gothenburg and can be found playing in his headphones prior to games.
"My last two masks have been kind of a stone-ish, Celtic pattern. This new one I wanted it to be like a cover of my favourite bands' albums, In Flames... I have some logos hidden. My favourite band is on my back plate, for example. It's a lot of details if you look in close but you don't see a whole lot on the ice."
While they nail the dark effect — and it certainly adds to his now-famous intensity when he wears it — the mask isn't exactly how Robin envisioned. It does become quite obvious, however, how much thought he puts into the look.
"It's a little bit different than what I wanted. the colour is a bit wrong. I wanted it a bit more reddish like hershey colours and a little bit of splatter and chaos into it. I also wanted the Senators logo in not much detail, just a bit more patterned. If you look at it, it's mostly faded with outlines. It doesn't look much like the Senators logo."
There's no need to worry though, there's always next year. You can expect more creativity from Robin in the future.
An interesting tidbit: He doesn't have any favourite masks from goaltenders past so don't expect any of the occasional tributes we see across the NHL. Whatever he comes with is all him.
"I've been trying to do my masks from patterns. We'll see what happens with the next one."
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