Look At This Awful Goalie Mask

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

Colby Cosh: Wretched goalie mask art

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As I mentioned in my first post, this article by Colby Cosh inspired me to start this blog. It was the new Edmonton Oilers mask of Nikolai Khabibulin that set him off, and I agree with him. I’m going to use his words, and images from the Pro’s Choice website.

“…this mask contains several features that symbolize the fallen, wretched state of goalie mask art in the 21st century”.

OK, I know it’s harsh to say “wretched” regarding a mask like this. Individually the different elements of this mask are pretty well executed. But together they’re too busy and make this mask look like a mess.



“It depicts a white wall that refers to Khabibulin’s nickname, the “Bulin Wall.” Lest anyone fail to make the connection, the words “Bulin Wall” are helpfully spelled out on the neck guard, in the manner of a bad editorial cartoon”.

I lived in Phoenix for five years during the time Khabibulin played for the Coyotes. I think “Bulin Wall” is a clever nickname. But the “Bulin Wall” on the neck guard is absolutely the worst part of this mask. The typography is terrible, and it’s just crammed in there like ten pounds of crap in a five pound bag. Also, I know orange is one of the Oilers colors, but it makes it look even worse.


Did I mention that the eagle has cartoon oil drops flying out from the vicinity of its ominous screaming head? And that it’s clutching the classic Oilers mask of Hall of Famer Grant Fuhr in its talons?”

I’m guessing this is supposed to be the double-headed eagle of Russia, but to me it looks like a an angry chicken. In fact with the spewing (orange?) oil coming out of the oil rig, it looks like a chicken being shot in the head. The best parts of the design are the classic Grant Fuhr masks. Why? Because they have simple designs and they’re rendered simply.



“Today’s masks are invariably designed to be contemplated up close. Moreover, in the 1970s, a single genius like (Greg) Harrison could handle most of the global demand for hockey-mask design. Today, the market has been flooded with airbrush-wielding amateurs whose work belongs on the side of a van.”

Colby nailed that one.



“And the design work is, fatally, 100% customer-driven. No goalie seems to regard his mask as being wholly complete unless it, like Khabibulin’s, is replete with multiple personal signifiers. Hell, Khabi’s mask is, if anything, fairly restrained. He apparently didn’t feel the need, as far as one can tell, to make room for some clumsy tribute to fallen veterans or to a cute kid with leukemia”.

Oh, I’ll get to the tribute masks. And, oh god, I just noticed the text on the neck guard has that sparkly, glowy thing on them. Ugh.



“The result is that nobody looks around upon entering the big league and says to himself, “Hey, there are already 20 guys in the NHL who already have a super-scary fanged skull on their mask. Maybe I want something ELSE on mine.” The impulse is literally not in them”.

Read that paragraph again, because it is hilarious!



I’m really surprised there isn’t a reference to his Stanley Cup win with the Lightning, unless it’s crammed in there somewhere and I can’t see it.

On the plus side I really like the authentic, non-chicken looking, Russian eagle with the national colors on the back. Good job hiding the most dignified part of the mask.

Oh, and I hate the oil rig too. Take it off, make the Oilers logo a little bigger and move it up. Much better.

And yeah, I know, he’s been sporting similar masks for a long time now. And they’re all bad. But I didn’t want to turn this into a comprehensive catalog of two-headed chicken masks.

Judgement: Bad

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Written by kdjohns

September 24, 2009 at 11:06 am

The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

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This is a blog about goalie masks. Masks that I think are bad. But there will also be masks I like, as examples of what I think are good design.

I was inspired by two things, this article by Colby Cosh “Wretched goalie mask art“, and the website “Look At This Fucking Hipster“.

After reading Mr. Cosh’s post about wretched mask art, I looked up the Khabibulin mask, and I’ll be damned if he isn’t right. So I had a look around for a while at other current goalie masks, and most of them seem pretty bad. The biggest crime, as he points out, is that they seem to be so busy.

The painted goalie masks of the past were, by and large, bright abstract designs easily legible from the cheap seats. Most of the great, enduring ones were thought up by the father of mask painting, design student/goalie Greg Harrison. The masks from that time are the ones we still revere as canonical: Ken Dryden’s concentric red-and-blue “targets,” Mike Palmateer’s classic Leafs mask, the bicentennial special Ron Low wore with the Caps, Murray Bannerman’s elegant “kabuki” number. When goalies switched to the combined mask-with-caged-visor style of today, things began to get slightly more representational and crude, but some of the best literalist designs of the ’80s and early ’90s were still simple and tasteful, executed in a minimalist spirit: Mike Richter’s Lady Liberty,Andy Moog’s Bruins bear.


I have to confess, in recent years I’ve only been a casual Hockey fan, mostly tuning in only for the playoffs. But I grew up loving Hockey and my favorite players were always goalies. Although I stopped collecting in ’97, I have a pretty big collection of goalie cards, some of which may end up here.

I was also a Graphic Designer for fifteen years, so I have an art background on which to base my judgements. I was always a “less is more” type of designer, smaller fonts and good white space were important to me, so anything busy really irritates me. It always reminds me of clients who said “bigger font” and “cram more stuff in that tiny space”. OK, these aren’t direct quotes, but that’s how they come off. Yes, I sound fussy, I acknowledge that.

I hope I’m not making a mistake starting this blog. I’m a notoriously lazy blogger. I’ve had three blogs already and even though they started out strong, eventually they petered out as I lost interest. I may be lying to myself, but I’m hoping focusing on one thing will make it easier on me. Also, yes I was a Graphic Designer, but now I’m a Merchant Mariner. I was in the Coast Guard prior to becoming a designer, but felt the lure of the sea again and it’s a decision I’ll never regret. But as you can understand being at sea can make it difficult to post. So if I manage to keep it up for a while, but this site suddenly goes dormant, it’s because I’m at sea. I’ll give you a heads up when I’ll be gone.

OK, enough of the blah, blah, blah. Let’s try to make a go of this, shall we?

Written by kdjohns

September 24, 2009 at 9:36 am