Power Ranking the 25 Best Non-NHL Goalie Helmet Designs of All Time
Besides satirizing the popular style of play at the time, Slap Shot underlined one of hockey's key novel concepts from the 1970s when Charlestown Chiefs goaltender Denis Lemieux decorated his mask late in the team's turnaround season.
The Chiefs were all about collective meanness, and Lemieux took the opportunity to put a symbolic stamp on that.
In real life, once netminders were in the second-nature habit of minding their faces, they soon began to adopt what was literally a second face, a game face. And the creativity has only grown exponentially better in the decades since.
The NHL all but pioneered the puck-stoppers' personality movement through the 1990s with such iconic paintings as Ed Belfour's eagle. But it is now especially trendy at the minor professional, major junior, Division I college and international levels to go beyond just the team logo and colors.
Whether it is a personal statement, an homage to one's employer, a nod to the team's locality or a combination of the above, the hockey world offers an overwhelming abundance of enthralling artwork. The 25 best specimens found outside the NHL, but readily on the web, are as follows.
25. Mike McKenna: Lowell/Albany Devils
During his two-year stint in the New Jersey farm system, McKenna incorporated a neatly distributed combination of the Devils' colors with a sinister-looking figure on the front and a personal, patriotic touch on the chin and back plate.
24. Konstantin Barulin: CSKA Moscow
Though once drafted by the St. Louis Blues, as evidenced above, Barulin has spent his entire professional career in his homeland and, at least for a time, was seen sporting a winged horse crashing out of a well-painted radiant background.
23. Brian Billet: Boston College Men
Billet took an extra creative lap beyond the conventional eagle head or soaring eagle you typically find on a BC mask, such as Parker Milner's pictured above. His depicts an anthropomorphic goaltending eagle.
22. Robert Esche: Plymouth Whalers
Esche's killer whale artwork assumed a head-on position fit to denote a goalie's requisite poise.
21. Nick Boucher: Fort Wayne Komets
20. Jhonas Enroth: Portland Pirates
Geographically speaking, the short-lived alliance between the Buffalo Sabres and the AHL's Portland Pirates made little sense, especially when Buffalo had such a good thing going with the Rochester Americans.
That Western New York partnership was soon restored. But before that happened and before he earned a permanent spot in The Show, Enroth at least offered an elaborate mask that made abundant sense out of the concept of buccaneers and swords coming together.
19. Brian Robbins: UMass-Lowell Riverhawks
Below the Riverhawks logo on the top portion, Robbins incorporates a fitting tribute to the city of Lowell’s industrial heritage.
18. Kellen Briggs: University of Minnesota Men
The Gophers boast one of the longest-running Division I programs in the NCAA, having been in operation since 1922.
In turn, Briggs offered a fitting tribute to Minnesota's history and longevity by having an old-time goalie's face and mask painted onto his up-to-date style shield.
17. Roberto Luongo: Canadian Men’s Olympic Team
When it's the Olympics, it's hard to go wrong with a rendering of one's national personifcation. In Luongo's case, it was a raring and rugged Johnny Canuck.
16. Ryan Miller: U.S. Men’s Olympic Team
Luongo's opponent in a thrilling, gold-medal overtime tilt at the 2010 Vancouver Games, Miller countered with an unyielding poise as well as a striking, star-spangled helmet.
15. Jonas Hiller: Swiss Men’s Olympic Team
Hiller did not have nearly the same Olympic success as the aforementioned Miller and Luongo two years ago, but the various renderings on his mask make one curious to research their significance.
14. Adam Morrison: Vancouver Giants
More Canadian icons to be found here on one of the former major-junior masks of this Bruins prospect.
13. Andrew Engelage: Toronto Marlies
12. Jack Campbell: Team USA World Junior
11. Zuzana Tomcikova: Bemidji State Women
Tomcikova has represented her native Slovakia and gone on to the NCAA, where she opportunistically honors both her native land and her new home in upper Minnesota.
With a sky blue backdrop that would serve as an ideal setting for pond hockey, Tomcikova's mask includes some of the major buildings of Bratislava and two Minnesota tall tale icons in Paul Bunyan and Babe the Ox, all flanking her school's logo.
10. Alex Stalock: Worcester Sharks
A decade after the fact, Stalock’s “W6” commemorated the six Worcester firefighters who lost their lives while putting out a warehouse blaze in December 1999. That tragic event inspired Worcester native and noted hockey enthusiast Denis Leary to start the Leary Firefighters Foundation, and the city’s public safety department benefited from Stalock’s mask when it was auctioned off.
9. Marc Cheverie: University of Denver
Before transitioning to the plugger's grind of the ECHL, Cheverie made every effort to display some Pioneer pride. His college lid featured Denver's athletic symbol standing before a city sunset that blended in smoothly with the team's maroon-and-gold uniform.
8. Scott Gudmanson: University of Wisconsin Men
Not every stopper in Wisconsin's program history has actually taken the time and imagination to bear a badger more menacing-looking than the official school athletic logo. But as this close-up shows, Gudmanson did just that, throwing in the nearby state capital building in an appropriate nod to the Madison community that lavishes the team with support.
7. Genevieve Lacasse: Providence College Women
Lacasse spent the last four seasons waging classic duels with the likes of Swiss Olympian Florence Schelling (Northeastern) and American Olympian Molly Schaus (Boston College).
For more than two of those seasons, she sported a helmet packed with Providence pride. It featured the city skyline out in front and two previous Friar stoppers, Sara DeCosta and Jana Bugden, on each side.
The black backdrop combined with the portrait white Rhode Island State House blended especially well with the rest of the Friars uniform.
Lacasse graduated this past spring upon rewriting nearly the entire goaltending section of the PC program's record book. She will now vie for her own Olympic tenure with Team Canada.
6. Carl Hozjan: Rimouski Oceanic
5. Troy Grosenick: Union College Dutchmen
One of the NCAA's leading stoppers in 2011-12, Grosenick went all out with the artwork on his face shield to honor one of the rarest of athletic nicknames. A closer look can be seen here.
4. Jeremy Smith: Milwaukee Admirals
In keeping with this deep, water-bound motif, the Predators prospect has a detailed nautical nighttime scene that incorporates the Admirals logo in a fitting manner (even if that logo would be better suited for the Portland Pirates).
3. Billy Sauer: Lake Erie Monsters
As evidenced above, Sauer was a conformist in his college days, wearing the same winged helmet as all of his teammates at the University of Michigan. But as seen here, upon reaching the AHL and joining the Monsters, he emulated John Vanbiesbrouck as best as the circumstances would allow.
2. Clayton Pool: Muskegon Fury
Pool’s lid, linked here, sports a lighthouse over each earflap in a nice nod to Muskegon Harbor, which sits along Lake Michigan and is within walking distance of this defunct minor pro team’s home at L.C. Walker Arena.
The all-encompassing stormy scene evokes hints of a lake-bound waterspout, which captures the essence of the Fury nickname and stick-wielding tornado logo.
1. Travis Yonkman: University of Alberta/Fayetteville FireAntz
Let's just let the winner of this slideshow do the talking in the video above, then turn the podium over to the photographic evidence linked here.