Goalie mask painting goes back to Gary Cheevers in the 1970s, who had his trainer paint stitches on his fiberglass mask whenever a puck or stick struck him in the face.
Why paint a goalie mask?
Although a goalie is part of a team, it is also very much an individual position. No matter how much the game is a team effort, as a goalie you still feel very much that it’s you against the opposition team. At least that’s how I often feel. You measure yourself against their strongest forward.
So it comes as no surprise that a way to express that individuality is to paint your goalie mask. For some it’s a way to intimidate the opponents, but mostly it tells you something about the goalie.
That personalization is what makes airbrushing these masks fun for the artist, just like a tattoo artist learns something about his clients. It gives the art purpose and meaning, both for the owner of the mask and the artist.
For instance, the EMT/firefighter who wanted a mask engulfed in flames with the EMT logo on one side and a firefighter on the other, the goalie with Egyptian heritage who wanted King Tut’s mask, the Red wings fan in Colorado, who wanted a yeti holding every Stanley Cup the Red Wings won and the retired jersey numbers (and there’s a lot). And then there are always the initials of children and loved ones, often on the back plate. An inspirational quotation to remember a friend who passed away.
But even if there isn’t a deeper meaning, the mask is always different and cool, like the Finding Nemo mask I just did. The obvious choice would have been to do the shark Bruce, (Fish are friends, not food) with a big open mouth, but instead, being a goalie he went for the less obvious, but so much more creepy Angler fish, with the big teeth.
Stories of the goalie mask painting.
Every mask tells a story. The latest one will be for a youth hockey player who was born in Vietnam. That one will have the Thai (Hindu) monkey God Hanuman on the front. I’m very excited about that, because I’m very familiar with that kind of image, having Indonesian ancestry from my mother’s side and having seen similar masks and Wayang puppets in Indonesian restaurants in Holland as I grew up.
I love the idea of taking an indigenous mask as inspiration for a goalie mask. I still have to paint my own mask. Now I’m thinking Ethiopian tribal mask in honor of the birth family of my adopted son.
I’ll post pictures as the mask progresses. I’m first finishing a modification on another goalie mask though….
Addendum: Below my new goalie mask based on an African tribal mask.