I wonder if it was any coincidence that Jacques Plante unveiled the first goalie mask the night after Halloween. It seems fitting that the goalie mask would be introduced to the world, the night after so many of us are sporting masks of our own. When Plante created the mask, its sole purpose was to protect. The mask has evolved into so much more. The goalie mask is now a blank canvas where the game's most eccentric personalities can express themselves.
I have had a fascination with goalie masks from the first time I saw Patrick Roy’s all white mask. I thought it was the coolest looking thing ever, and it had me wanting to be a goalie just so I could wear one. I became obsessed with goalies and their mask artwork. I remember having to buy the monthly edition of Goalie’s World magazine and cutting out the posters to hang on my wall. Some fascinations never die, no matter how old you get. To this day I still get giddy, seeing the new artwork each goalie comes up with for their masks.
Art has always been subjective, which makes the topic of which masks are the coolest, an interesting debate. Everyone has an opinion on which is their favorite and the choices are mounting. In the early years, a goalie would wear the same design for multiple seasons, if not his full career. Today goalies are changing the artwork on their mask two to three times a year. Some goalies will have a mask created especially for one event in the year, and then never use that mask again. With so many masks to choose from, you will never find two people with the same opinion on which masks are the coolest. In this top 20, we will give our favorite NHL Goalie Masks.
20 Curtis Joseph
A beast on a mask has been done often, but we're going to be partial to the ones who did it first. In this classic duel, Curtis Joseph's Cujo mask edged out Andy Moog’s bear mask. Joseph got the slight edge as we're big fans of having your nickname featured as the theme of your mask, and no mask did that better than the CuJo masks. For anyone who has seen/read the Stephen King classic, they know not to get in the way of a rabid Cujo. The same could be said about Joseph, who channeled his alter ego in the 2000 playoffs when he went after referee Mick McGeough. Joseph had many variations of the mask, but our favorite one is the one he had in Toronto in the 2008-2009 season.
19 Curtis Sanford
Curtis Sanford was a career backup that left little mark on the NHL other than this very cool mask. Sanford had been aptly nicknamed “The Sandman.” The mask features an interesting adaptation of the Sandman. He looks like Gandalf with fangs and a bad case of eye irritation. Regardless the mask is one of the more frightening ones we've ever seen, and for that reason alone it makes this cut of coolest NHL masks.
18 Murray Bannerman
We can’t figure out if this mask is cool or creepy, or cool because it's so creepy. Apparently the mask was designed to look like the Indian on the Blackhawks logo, but really? Maybe the mask designer took a hit of acid during the design process, as we would imagine this is what the logo would look like under serious drugs. We can’t really put our finger on what adds the creep element to the mask. Maybe it's the eyebrows, or the red boomerang for a mouth. The mask also has an Asian warrior feel, which adds some coolness. In the end, it is its uniqueness that makes it a very cool mask and one worthy of this list.
17 Ed Belfour
Ed Belfour's mask was so cool that his nickname came from it. The mask featured two bald eagles that spawned his nickname, “Eddie the Eagle.” The eagle is a powerful bird that glides with ease, and they are a symbol of courage and strength. Those descriptions are fitting of Belfour and his Hall of Fame career. What makes this mask so cool, beyond its classic design, is its longevity. The mask followed Belfour at every stop of his NHL career, from his rookie year in Chicago right through to his retirement in Florida, and every stop in between over his 18 year career. During the 2013-2014 season, current Blackhawks backup Antti Raanta honored Belfour by having the classic mask remade for their March 1st game at Soldier field. Sadly for us fans, he didn’t get the start, and we didn't get to see the mask. Still, this mask will be forever etched in our memories as one of the coolest masks.
16 Steve Mason
Steve Mason has had so many cool masks that he could have his own top 10. His best designs are the zombie themed ones. He has one with his flyers teammates as zombies, and the one he has now features a zombie Al Capone. But, our favorite one is the one featuring the founding fathers as zombies. Mason liked the idea of taking historical figures and adding a horror element to them. The result is zombie versions of Ben Franklin, George Washington and Betsy Ross. According to the designer, the mask is made to look like Betsy Ross hand stitched the Flyers logo in the center of the mask and who knew she was so handy with a needle.
15 Brian Hayward
Brian Hayward was one of the best backups in the league for Montreal. Together with Patrick Roy, they won three straight Jennings awards in the early 90's. When the league expanded to San Jose, Hayward was picked up by the Sharks in the Dispersal Draft. It was Hayward who was between the pipes for their first NHL win and in that win he was wearing this classic mask. These days you see many “in the jaws” type masks, but this is the first one we can remember. It was such a cool looking mask that it reminded you of every classic Jaws' movie. In the early years of the franchise, the Sharks had very little success on the ice, but off the ice their merchandise sold like crazy. One of the big factors in those sales was how cool people thought this mask looked.
14 Ilya Bryzgalov
If you've seen a single interview with Ilya Bryzgalov, you can’t help but fall in love with the Russian bear. If that was not enough, it turns out he's a Star Wars fan. It seems like Darth Vader was destined to be on a goalie mask, and actually Martin Gerber once did feature him on a mask. But, for this list,we opted for a mask that gave a greater reflection of the full Star Wars Universe. On the dark side of the mask you have Vader, the Death Star, an Imperial Destroyer and a Tie Fighter (the ship, not Domi). It is the other side of the mask that got Bryzgalov in some hot water. The other side features Yoda wielding a lightsaber, the only problem was that the artist added a orange hue to blend with the Flyers colors. This drew the ire of Lucasfilm, as it made Yoda appear orange and his lightsaber red! The second version had Yoda back to his green self, and holding a more jedi-like green lightsaber.
13 Antero Niittymaki
Usually sharing a name with a world famous gangster is something you try to shy away from, but Antero Niittymaki embraced it. Nittymaki had the nickname “Nitty,” which is the same name as Al Capone’s right hand man, Frank “The Enforcer” Nitti. With a name like that, we think Frank would have been a perfect fit for a Flyers jersey. The helmet features Nitti on both sides firing a tommy gun, with smoking shell casings falling down. Under the chin are bullet holes, and the name “Nitty.” When Niittymaki landed in San Jose, he opted to go away from the gangster related mask and chose a more traditional shark mask. After this decision, it was no surprise that his NHL career came to a quick end, reminding us that you never turn your back on the mob.
12 Gary Simmons
Gary Simmons was a large goalie for his time at 6’3, 200 pounds. One reporter called him a snake, and his teammate in Phoenix, Bob Barlow, went one step further by calling him a Cobra. That nickname gave birth to this cool mask. It was with the California Golden Seals that Simmons wore this mask, and we don’t think he gave much thought to color scheme. The mask is black with a green cobra, and neither color is part of the Golden Seals uniform. This made the mask stick out even more. But, it is the illusion of the snake appearing to be tattooed on his face that makes it so cool. The snake actually reminds you of the Corba Kai dojo logo from the Karate Kid movies, "SWEEP THE LEG!" If we owned the Golden Seals, we would have changed the team name to match Simmons mask. What is a better team name, the California Golden Seals or the California Cobras?Come on.
11 11.Marc-Andre Fleury
There were a lot of really cool masks last year for the Stadium Series, but our favorite was the simplest one of them all. As the game was being held at the legendary Solider field, Marc Andre Fleury drew inspiration from the Pittsburgh Steelers. The mask replicates the classic Pittsburgh Steelers helmet, with the solid yellow stripe down the middle separating Fleury’s number 29. The bottom half of the mask is just as sweet, with a full caged mask, and a chin strap that buckles on the side of the helmet. Now all Marc-Andre needs to do is pick up some Head and Shoulders to complete the full Troy Polamalu transformation.
10 Frederik Andersen
Frederik Andersen is sporting a pretty cool Lego inspired mask this season, but for this list, we are going with a mask that is a shade more on the violent side. In 2013, Andersen went with a mask titled the “Rough Duck.” The designer said Andersen wanted something that inspired the notion that he is willing to bleed for his team, and that is exactly what the mask portrays. We love the blood streaming down the mask, as it is something that has never been done on a goalie mask before. It shows that hockey is not for the faint of heart, and it requires blood, sweat and tears to win a Stanley Cup.
9 Ray Emery
Ray Emery is an avid boxing fan, and has featured many boxers on his masks from Mike Tyson, Floyd Mayweather, and Joe Frazier to Bernard Hopkins and even Rocky. But our favorite Emery mask is the one he wore during his first stint with the Flyers in 2009-2010. The mask is an homage to three legendary goalies from Flyers history: Ron Hextall, Bernie Parent, and Pelle Lindbergh. Many have done homage helmets, but these three just work perfect together on this mask. Hextall is in the dead center, and that has to be quite the frighting sight for a shooter to be starring down at. In reality, Emery with his boxing background might be a scarier option, especially if the gloves were to drop. Just ask Braden Holtby.
8 Gerry Cheevers
Perhaps the most famous goalie mask of all time is the Gerry Cheevers stitch mask. Cheevers started the mask after being struck in the face during practice. He had the trainer paint a stitch mark on the mask, and then continued to add another stitch to the mask each time it was struck. When you look at the mask, and see all the marks, it is a reminder of what the pioneers in the sport had to endure. The thought of taking multiple pucks to the face during a career and still wanting to play the position lends to the theory that goalies are a little off their rocker. During the early 2000s, Steve Shields of the Bruins wore a mask replicating the iconic Cheevers mask that was a pretty good rendition of the classic mask.
7 Johan Hedberg
One of the best movies of the 80’s was Raiders of The Lost Ark. If you don't know what that is, please go figure it out before reading on. Now put that together with one of the best nicknames of the 90’s, Johan Hedberg’s “Moose,” and you are going to get one truly epic mask. This mask was dubbed "Indiana Moose, Raiders of The Lost Puck!" The entire theme is taken from the classic opening scene in Raiders of The Lost Ark where Harrison Ford takes the golden statue. The statue is replaced by a golden puck on the mask. On one side is a focused Indiana Moose, among spider webs and scary statues, ready to take the golden puck. On the other side, Indiana Moose runs like a maniac with the golden puck under his arm, and poisonous arrows flying around him. On the chin, the name Indiana Moose appears, of course in Indy style font.
6 Petr Mrazek
This next mask comes for the little-known, third string goalie, Petr Mrazek. Mrazek had a cup of tea with the big club in 2013. In his first start, Mrazek had a 26 save effort for his first NHL win, but at the end of the game, it was his mask that got the bigger headlines. The mask features Peter Griffin as Clark Kent, getting ready to jump into action. Mrazek admits to not even being a fan of the Family Guy. He was given the idea as he shares a first name with the Griffin patriarch, and plays for the Red Wings affiliate the Grand Rapids Griffins.
5 Gary Bromley
Gary Bromley’s mask seems more like a mask you would find at a Halloween party than an NHL rink. Bromley had the nickname “Bones,” which is apt as his career always seemed to have one foot in the grave. His NHL career was short lived, but it was long enough to give us one of the more awesome masks the NHL has ever seen. If you threw a purple hood over his head, he would be Skeltor from He-Man. One of the truly chilling things about this mask is that the air holes appear right in the sinister smile of the mask. It makes it look like he got a couple pucks right in the gibs, knocking a few chiclets out.
4 Steve Valiquette
Steve Valiquette is a mountain of a man standing at 6’7. In NHL ’07 or ’08, Valiquette was a hidden gem with that size, as he wouldn’t bite on the deke moves, and had the length to do things other goalies in that game couldn’t. That was all Valiquette was ever good for until he unveiled this one of kind mask.
As superheroes often wear masks of their own, it is a wonder why more goalies don’t have a superhero theme. Valiquette opted to go with your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, and the results are spectacular. Color scheme goes a long way for masks, and the fact that Spidey's colors are red and blue, like the Rangers, makes this mask work. Spidey’s eyes just seem like they were meant to appear on a goalie mask, and the Statue of Liberty in a Rangers uniform is another nice really cool touch.
3 Cam Talbot
Since he has entered the league, Cam Talbot has had three masks, all with a Ghostbuster theme. The one he is wearing in 2014 features the Zuul Dog’s teeth along the lower half of the mask, with a giant Ghostbusters logo in the center. But our favorite is the one that he wore when he entered the league in 2012.
The Ghostbusters films take place in New York, so with Talbot being a Rangers goalie, the mask works perfectly. The mask is oozing coolness, literally in the form of blue slime from the slimiest one of them all, Slimer. The blue slime forms at the bottom to spell out Talbot’s nickname, “T-Bot.” On the other side of Slimer, the mask features the Ghostbusters logo, and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man grabbing the Rangers Statue of Liberty logo. The coolness of this mask is beyond words.
2 Giles Gratton
The inspiration for this mask came from a National Geographic magazine that Gratton had been flipping through. Though many people think the mask is of a lion, Gratton confirms it is actually a tiger. There is something more terrifying about the full face masks. I think it is the illusion that the image is painted on the goalies face that makes it so much more frightening. We can’t imagine streaking down on a breakaway and looking up at that mask and not being a little distracted. Throw in the fact that Gratton was known to actually growl at his opposition, and we can see a few players missing their shots on goal.
1 John Gibson
John Gibson has not one, but two epic helmets paying homage to classic 80’s video games. The first edition was a Pac-Man inspired helmet, that saw a “Pac-Duck” reigning terror down on Inky, Blinky, Pinky and Clyde. But, then Gibson out did himself with this masterpiece. The Space Invaders themed mask on its own is a top 5 mask, but what makes this our number one mask is the homage to the Aliens movies, with the Alien Duck. With the baby beak coming out of the Alien Duck's mouth, like in the movies, there aren't many masks cooler than this one.