Ever since Jason donned a goalie mask for Friday the 13th, the face-protecting gear of the hockey goalie has enjoyed a cultural significance far beyond the confining boards of the ice rink. Flash forward a few decades, and now every NHL goalie seems to be sporting a mask which holds significance to both themselves as players, as well as the franchise they mind the net for, too.
And Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask is no different.
Hockey goalies are notorious for being something of a different breed of athlete. After all, who would willfully choose a life dedicated to stopping hundred mile-an-hour slapshots? But watching Rask in postgame interviews, he's always looked, to me, like some unassuming skater kid - who just happens to be one of the NHL's top goalies. This admittedly irrational viewer response of mine has only been reinforced by the custom goalie helmet Rask has worn since his minor league (AHL) days in Providence, a helmet that strikes me as decidedly skateboard- (or, snowboard-) like in its artistic design.
As noted in a recent Eagle-Tribune article, Rask's mask was made by Dom Malerba, whose company Pro's Choice makes masks for some 15 goalies in the NHL - including former UMass superstar and current LA Kings puck stopper Jonathan Quick - and another 10 for AHL keepers.
"It started out as a hobby in 1986, while Malerba was a landscaper in the North Shore," reports the Eagle-Tribune. "Malerba’s Middleton-based company, was selected by Vaughn Hockey to produce their National Hockey League and minor league masks. He has mastered the art of mask making over the past 30 years and established himself as one of the premiere go-to guys for custom helmets."
A Danvers resident, Malerba's company Pro's Choice got its big break back when Bruins goalie Andy Moog used his company to make his mask.
Malerba makes the molding for the mask, but the distinctive artistic design of the snarling bear (bruin) was created by Woburn's Ron Slater.
"Although goalie mask design seems to take precedence on this site," explains the website of his Slater Lettering and Graphics, "we also specialize in custom painting and vinyl graphics for masks of all sports, bikes, cars, trucks, vans, boats, signs of all kinds and pretty much anything else we can paint."
Like, I'll bet, skateboards.
Check out the video below to hear Rask (whose Finnish accent often sounds decidedly Boston-Irish Southie) discuss his gear, including, at the one minute mark, his mask.