For most goaltenders, their mask is so much more than just protection. Oh don’t get me wrong, when you have pucks flying at 90-100 miles per hours straight at you, a mask is a necessity. Ask the great Jacques Plante, the first goaltender to go against his coach’s order and wear a mask after coming back into the game all stitched up! Since then, one wouldn’t think of putting on the big pads without ensuring to come out with top notch face and head protection. With it, came the personalization of that piece of equipment. It has become part of a goaltender’s identity, we can say.
Growing up in the 70’s, Ken Dryden‘s iconic mask remains vivid in my my memory. Seeing him standing, leaning on the knob of his stick with both hands, the white, red and blue mask staring straight ahead of him… Some masks from opponents also stood out. Gerry Cheevers of the Bruins, who was drawing stiches on his mask after each game, where the puck hit him. Toronto’s Mike Palmeteer with his blue and white zigzags, Tony Esposito while with the Blackhawks or John Garrett with the Canucks. You saw the mask, you immediately knew who the goalie was.
Today, the masks have become works of art. They have so much details in them, which can only be seen and fully appreciated when looking at them up close, a priviledge that we don’t always have when watching games on TV or live in the arena. Goalies showcase their team for sure, but also their likes, their personality.
No other goaltender in the Montreal Canadiens’ history has changed his mask more often than the winniest goaltender in franchise history, Carey Price. At some point, no one could keep up with the masks he was wearing. Trying to do the exercise today was challenging and I may have missed a couple. But each one meant something to Carey. Each one was unique and represented something that he liked. The most common theme has been rodeos and cowboys, but he had others too. How can we forget the Grim Reaper? His first nations descent has often been included in the themes, as have the team’s history and definitely, the CH logo.
Let’s have a look at his masks over the years.
When he first joined the Canadiens, he, like many young goalies coming straight from junior, or even veterans after being traded, had a mask completely white. That year, Carey sported three masks. In addition to the initial white one, the next two paid tribute to his passion for country music and rodeos. He had the True American Legends mask, which featured the great Garth Brooks on one side, and George Strait on the other. He also had the Rodeo theme one of a cowbow bull rider and bronc rider. Carey stuck with the True American Legends’ mask for the 2008-2009 season as well.
The 2009-2010 season was the franchise’s centennial year. It was a year with many legends attending, multiple celebrations throughout the year celebrating the stars of the past and the team’s accomplishments over the years. Carey got a mask with the centennial logo along with the Montreal skyline, and jerseys of several players along with goaltenders of the past. Another mask, predominently red, paid tribute to the great Jacques Plante and Ken Dryden, as well as other goaltenders. He also came out with an odd-ball one. The Grim Reaper riding a chopper motorcycle, with aces of spades and Price written in Gothic characters up front was different to say the least, alghouth the artwork was outstanding.
Carey introduced a few other masks the 2010-11 season. A tribute to Jacques Plante for the Heritage Classic was a standout. He also went with a predominently white mask and rodeo cowboys on either sides. One that I found fun but didn’t last long is a cartoonish kid carrying the Habs’ flag like they do before players step onto the ice on gameday, with the crowd on their feet in the background.
In addition to his rodeo cowboys one from the previous year, Carey had a few more that year. One of my very favourites was for the cancer awareness, light blue and pink mask showing his first nations roots, a mask which was auctioned off to benefit the cause. True to his character, Price sported a mask as a tribute to the Canadian Armed Forces, with the fleur-de-lys on the side and the yellow ribbon up front. Yet another mostly white rodeo style mask came out, and a more generic one with blue, red, white and silver flames themes. Last but not least, another first nations off-white mask with Pacific native arts and red and blue feathers.
Carey came out with three new masks that year. One with the old CAC logo on the forehead, with as background the CH logo that we know today and the 31 on a blue background. The other one was a rather plain one (for him anyway) white mask with big Canadiens’ logos, and the 31 replacing the H in a logo in front. And another (guess what?) western style mask where the top is white with the Canadiens colours in the lower portions. But the first one, with the CAC, seems to be what inspired the mask he’s been wearing for a few years… we’ll get to that.
This is the season where Price started slowing down his trend of masks. In addition to the CAC one, he got a new one with the same background as the CAC one, but with the modern logo instead ans a slight change with the 31 on the chin.
In 2014, Price was the number one goalie for Team Canada at the Olympics. He wor a grey, black and white mask with red lightning bolts. During the season, he made one slight change to the mask he wore the previous year, replacing the 31 on the chin by laces and put the 31 on either sides of it.
The 2015-16 season was one to forget for Price. Coming off a season where he had won the Olympic Gold and received the Jennings, Vezina, Lindsay, Hart, Marsh and Conacher Awards, he played 12 games and missed the rest of the season due to an injury. For those 12 games, he stuck with the laces mask he wore the previous year.
In 2016, Price led Team Canada once again to Gold, this time at the World Championships. He sported a red and white mask, with the same red bolts as the Olympics’ mask he wore in 2014. During the season, Price had replaced the laces for the 31 again. In March 2017, at the NHL Classic outdoor game, Price had a silver mask with the CH logo at the top and 31 at the bottom. A very slick look.
Believe it or not, Price only came out with one mask for that season. A very similar style as what he had worn in the past couple of seasons, the main adjustment was the colour. Red at the top and blue at the bottom.
2018-2019 and 2019-2020
Carey has stuck to the same mask the last two seasons. Based on the one in wore in the 2016-17 season, this one has some tears on the sides.
Is price done with changing his mask? Maybe he is, since two seasons is the longest he has gone without making a change. But I wouldn’t bet on that quite yet. At the very least, you know that he will come up with some masks for special occasions. He is certainly one of the goaltenders keeping artists employed, that’s for sure. And it’s not because he’s changing teams either! Go Habs Go!