We’ve entered the platinum age of goalie mask designs. It’s like television in the streaming era in that the quality has never been higher. Accomplished artists such as Dave Gunnarsson, Stephane Bergeron, Steve Nash and Sylvie Marsolais outfit their NHL clients with everything from 3-D effects to paint that changes colors when wet.
Yet something has disappeared during this boom of gorgeous art. Gone are the days when every star goalie sported a distinct, consistent design for which he was known. Gerry Cheevers had his stitches. Ed Belfour had his matching eagles. Today, goalies change masks almost as often as they re-tape their sticks. Some have different masks for home and away. Then we have special outdoor-game masks, one-off masks used for charity auctions and special anniversary designs tied to third-jersey promotions. It’s extremely difficult keeping track of who’s wearing what.
Still, a few netminders have found a way to maintain a degree of iconic consistency. Even if they alter their looks every year, we can count on some singular characteristics. The Leafs’ Frederik Andersen, for instance, rocks a Lego theme. Robin Lehner, crowned the champ in these rankings, doesn’t merely offer a cool-looking demon on his mask. The design represents his battle with bipolar disorder. Designs that reflect something personal and meaningful on top of having great aesthetics get a boost on this list.
It’s important to note there are no “bad” designs ranked here, but someone had to finish 31st, so certain traits were penalized, such as cluttered images or overly “safe” and thus relatively forgettable compositions. Fans everywhere tweeted about Jacob Markstrom’s delightfully creepy face-on-face look, whereas Braden Holtby went with simple variations of the Capitals’ logos. Nothing wrong with that, but it won’t win you a mask-art contest.
Other criteria: each mask belongs to an NHL starter or predicted No. 1, and one-off masks were not considered – the look had to be each goalie’s primary one. – Matt Larkin