Like many Canadians, Braden Holtby has been touched by the music of the Tragically Hip. And with frontman Gord Downie in a battle with incurable brain cancer, Holtby is finding a way to give back to and honor one of his musical heroes.
Ahead of Canada’s first pre-tournament World Cup contest against Team USA, Holtby had his mask for the competition arrive. And while the left panel, front and crown of the mask may look like nothing more than your run of the mill Team Canada mask, the right panel features an outstanding tribute to Downie and the group of Canadian rock icons.
The panel features two images of Downie from what looks to be the band’s final tour, including Downie sporting a Jaws t-shirt. One of the logos the Hip has used in the past also adorns the panel, as well as an image of the entire band together. Each of the images is given a sketch feel that really makes the design pop.
In an interview with Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston, Holtby said that the design is a departure from what he normally does, but he felt it was a way to pay tribute to a band, and a singer, who he has spent most of his life listening to.
“I’ve never really been creative with my masks at all,” Holtby told Johnston. “I’ve always just wanted a simple team logo on it, and kind of kept it that way. I was talking to our video coach in Washington (Brett Leonhardt), we were just talking about the concert and the Hip and going over it, and came up with the idea that it would be pretty special to do that on such a stage like the World Cup in Toronto.”
The mask is more than just a way to honor Downie, though, as Holtby plans to use it to aid a charity of Downie’s choice. Following the tournament, Holtby will auction the mask off and the proceeds will go to a charity of Downie’s choice, according to Hockey Canada’s vice president of hockey operations Scott Salmond.
Want more in-depth features and expert analysis on the game you love? Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.