The Goaltender: The armored
knight who stands in battle during the toughest
competition, the last line of defense and the
mysterious man behind “The Mask”.
Playing goal is an art form – a position of skill,
athleticism, timing, positioning and mastery. And
now, through the graphical talents of an airbrush
artist, the personalities of the goaltender are at
the forefront of their mystique.
Today there are many manufacturers of fine head
equipment for goaltenders as well as artists who
paint them. However, before I introduce the main
ingredients of this article, please understand
that the main purpose of a goalie mask is first –
protection and secondly – comfort.
Back some thirty plus years ago; goaltenders were
all grins and toothless smiles as they actually
saw the puck coming at them, head on, without any
such protection. Goaltenders being openly exposed
to a puck I’m sure left its mark in more ways then
With the advent of the slapshot
and curved sticks; and players getting bigger,
faster and stronger, the need for protection was
apparent. Out of necessity the goalie mask was
Though very archaic in design and composition, it
was the introduction of how the goaltender came
across and his personality expressed. The mask was
part of his persona, what makes one individual
stand out from the rest.
Thus, the making of the mask – that is the Gerry
Cheevers mask – reincarnated. Cheevers (to Bruins
Fans aka “Cheesy”), the undisputable heavyweight
champion of goaltenders, was the goalie who had
the most distinctive goalie mask on the planet.
The stitches on his plain white mask become his
trademark. It was the epitome of the position,
knowing that when he took a puck to the face
another stitch mark would appear. The Hall of
Famer, through his style of play and artistic
approach, has brought the concept of graphic
design on the goaltender mask through the ages.
Now to the present; Goaltender Steve Shields
(acquired from the Anaheim Mighty Ducks by the
Bruins over the summer) is literally faced with
his first challenge moving to a new team – what
design does he put on his mask?
Like getting a tattoo, the design
on a goalie mask leaves a lasting impression to
the fans, to the players and in the hockey history
books. Steve Shields turned to his long time mask
designer and graphic artist Todd Miska of Miska
Designs. Steve actually gave Todd two different
tasks: first, to come up with his first game debut
mask concept and secondly, to design a game mask
for the rest of the season. Both of them decided
that a tribute to Gerry Cheevers, as an explosive
idea, would be the debut mask honoring one of the
greatest goaltenders to reach the shores of
Boston. Now it was up to Todd Miska to make the
concept a reality.
Steve Shields has been using
goalie masks from Warwick Custom Goalie Masks for
years. The same prototype of his previous mask was
shipped out to
Todd Miska’s design shop. The mask was sent
without the front cage and interior padding so
that once the custom painting was completed, those
features could be added last.
Todd analyzed and conceptualized many pictures of
the Cheevers mask, which he needed to transfer to
the latest mask style. The goaltender mask of the
present has a front cage unlike the “flush to the
face” mask of old with cutout eye and breathing
With Steve’s acceptance, Todd
added the full head expression, from the multi
stitched Cheevers mask down to the ears and hair.
Step one for Todd was
to prime the rough fiberglass and Kevlar shell
with an epoxy primer. Todd then used a grease
pencil to outline the design on the mask shell.
Once the designs took shape and were completed to
Todd’s satisfaction, airbrushing of the base was
completed using all the colors that make up the
Cheevers mask, skin tones and hair colors. Todd
then painted the right half to the left half (with
help from a mirror) using the oil base Pantone
colors and a permanent marker.
Once this crucial phase was completed, the mask is
clear-coated with 6-8 layers of a poly-based
finish. It is then allowed to sit and harden. The
next step was for the mask to be wet sanded and
buffed to reveal the final finished product. The
mask was packed and shipped back to Gary Warwick
at Warwick Custom Goalie Masks where the
high-impact, insulated rubber padding, pro cage,
chin cup, screw fixtures and the back plate
harness were added. The finished mask was then
shipped off to Steve Shields awaiting his highly
anticipated conversational piece.
With Steve Shields sharing in the netminding
duties at The FleetCenter, the torch has been
passed from a Boston legend of Bruins and the
legacy of Bruins goaltending lives on. And deeply
etched in our memories of the great Gerry Cheevers
days of old, the mask we all know so well will
once again be the talk of the town.