Masks: a Goalie's Power Play

Players spend top dollar expressing themselves on gear
By Wesley Oliver,  Newser Staff
Posted May 9, 2009 4:38 PM CDT
Goaltender Peter Budaj #31 of the Colorado Avalanche warms up prior to facing the Dallas Stars during NHL action at the Pepsi Center on October 3, 2007.   (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – Unlike their cookie-cutter colleagues in other sports, NHL goalies wear their hearts on their faces, the Washington Post reports in a retrospective celebrating the 50th birthday of a netminder's best friend—the goalie mask. Players take great pride in personalizing them, sometimes spending $1,000 on images of prizefighters, dead relatives, or even Hershey Bars.

"It's a conversation piece, and fans seem to have an attraction to it," said hockey writer Jim Hynes. Masks are essential for safety, but were discouraged until one player ignored ridicule to wear one in 1959. Facing 100-mph airborne pucks, a 1960s goalie had stitches painted on where gashes would have been. A New York Rangers goalie later painted on a lion to "distract the shooters," Hynes said. "After that, anything went."