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Niitty Debuts His New "Gangster" Mask

by San Jose Sharks Staff / San Jose Sharks
Antero Niittymaki's new mask.
Did you know there’s a correlation between the mask of new Sharks goaltender Antero Niittymaki and the infamous Alcatraz Island? If not, you’re about to find out.

Niittymaki, who spent last season with Tampa Bay and recently had a mask designed for his new club, doesn’t take complete control of the process, but does have input on a general theme.

“Not a whole lot,” said Niittymaki of his design contributions. “I had some ideas, but I let him do whatever.”

The overriding idea was a gangster motif.

“I’ve had this gangster look on my mask the last six or seven years,” said Niittymaki about the masks he wore in Philadelphia and Tampa Bay.

The bottom of the mask has Niittymaki's nickname "Nitty"
Niittymaki is definitely a Finnish name, but when shortened, it sounds Italian and very close to that of famous mobster Frank Nitti, one of Al Capone’s loyal lieutenants.

“It came from Philly, they called me ‘Frank Nitti’ there,” Niittymaki said. “They still do. I think Coach (former Philadelphia Coach Ken) Hitchcock started it way back. A lot of the fans there really loved it.”

So how does the gangster mode fit in with the Sharks? The designer had a little fun with it on the right and left side. Maybe think tough guys from the animated flick “Shark Tale.”

“It’s a shark in a gangster outfit with a (machine) gun in hand,” Niittymaki said. “I tried to keep the gangster idea there and it turned out to be decent. I like it.”

As will most Sharks fans.

The side-view of Niittymaki's new mask.
On the top front portion of the mask is the Sharks primary logo, with the words “Nitty” covering the lower portion.

The initials of his three kids adorn the back of the cage, which is Finnish themed, with the white background and blue stripes of the national flag visible. The Sharks 20th anniversary logo is also on the back.

And the six degrees of separation tie in with Alcatraz, the famed San Francisco Bay landmark? Frank Nitti was sentenced to 18 months on the rock for tax evasion. Now the man who is still referred to by some people as Frank is getting his time between the pipes in San Jose.

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