Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

In the NHL, there's a Monet on every mask

Jets goalies among league's most creative

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JUSSI Olkinuora promised his dad when he signed his first NHL contract he'd buy him a red Porsche.

The elder Olkinuora probably thought he meant one that he could drive and use to get a speeding ticket or two in their native Finland. Instead, the sports car is painted on the side of his son's goalie mask. The driver? Cartoon legend Homer Simpson, of course, carrying a Finnish flag.

"This is (my dad's) red Porsche. It's a little cheaper, but it's the thought that counts," the 22-year-old Jets prospect said with a grin.

The Simpsons are his all-time favourite cast of cartoon characters and if you need further proof, Bart Simpson is on the other side of his mask climbing a St. John's ice cap.

Decorating a mask is one way for goalies to personalize their equipment in a way NHL forwards and defencemen can't. You'd be hard-pressed to find a wider range of artistic expression anywhere than with the six goaltenders in the Jets system.

Jets backup Al Montoya's mask is as multicultural as they come. In fact, he barely has enough room to pay tribute to Canada (where he plays), the U.S. (where he was born) and Cuba (where his mother is from). He's got a maple leaf on the top and on the back is the U.S. flag, a small pink footprint for his baby daughter, Camilla, his nickname, "The Big Cubano" and a cigar.

When asked what brand, the first Cuban-American to play in the NHL smiled and said, "definitely Montecristo."

Eric Comrie, the most recent addition to the fold after being drafted in the second round last June, pays homage to the history of his junior team, the Tri-City Americans, with its logo and third jersey on his mask.

There's also an image of Captain America, even though the 18-year-old admits to being more of a Batman fan.

"I guess Captain America might be my favourite now," he said with a laugh.

Eddie Pasquale is a country music fan so he pays tribute to his favourite artist, Jason Aldean, on his mask. Last year, he did the same with Brad Paisley.

It also sports an Irish clover -- he's one-quarter Irish -- the No. 80 in honour of his grandfather, who died at that age, and "yes by," the popular Newfoundland saying heard so often at Icecaps games.

In junior, Pasquale had a mask paying tribute to Jim Carrey's 1990s movie, The Mask, and another honouring actor Will Ferrell.

"Growing up I never had a painted helmet. My dad always said 'it doesn't help you stop any pucks so keep a white one,' " he said.

Michael Hutchinson wanted something bold and simple fans could see from far away so he's got Jets logos on both sides and on top. But when you get up close, you can see older-style jets that have been airbrushed on the sides.

He admitted he doesn't want too many opposing forwards getting close enough to see the intricate artwork.

"It's something cool and it adds an extra dimension to the mask. It's just like colouring your pads. You can show a bit of your personality and give the fans something to look at. I find the fans enjoy seeing different paint jobs on goalies," he said.

He's also got a horseshoe painted on the back.

"Every goalie needs a horseshoe now and then," he said with a laugh.

Jets starter, Ondrej Pavelec, isn't nearly as particular. His only requirements are that his mask has the Jets' logo and his number on the chin.

He's also got a couple of smaller fighter planes on the sides and there's a small Czech flag on the back.

He's also got some shark teeth going down towards the throat of the mask.

"I thought it looked pretty cool. I don't exactly know what it means, but it looks good," he said.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 15, 2013 C2


Updated on Tuesday, October 15, 2013 at 7:49 AM CDT: adds video

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