Islanders net-minder Martin Biron was sporting new headgear in the form of a custom mask during the portion of the Islanders Saskatoon training camp.
For a goaltender, the mask is a creatively inspired testament to the player’s signature style, personality or the city they play in. Here’s what Biron had to say on the topic.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
The Sheaf: Elaborate on the new design of your goalie mask. What inspired the look and were you behind its style?
Martin Biron: We kind of copied and used vintage Islanders alumni Billy Smith’s design which was a plain mask with only the holes and the eyes. Also on the back, there’s a pink ribbon for breast cancer awareness for a cousin my age that died a year and a half ago from breast cancer. So that’s something that really strikes my heart. I also wrote my kids’ initials in the back, Jacob, Grace and Emily.
Sheaf: Why are custom goalie masks so popular among goaltenders?
Biron: It’s just a way for us goalies to be different and show our personality a bit. Players can be many things on the ice. They can be hitters, they can have a hard shot or they can be fighters. Being a goalie, your number one job is to stop the puck, so sometimes you want to be different with your equipment and it’s just one of the ways to express yourself.
Sheaf: How long do masks typically last before the inevitability of wear and tear sink in?
Biron: It depends on the company and what brand of mask you buy. Mine is a Bauer and I’ve had this mask for years and I keep wearing it. This year we sanded the whole thing and it’s like brand new. I’ve seen guys go through two or three masks a year and it just depends on the person.
Sheaf: Do mask designs differ for goalies when moving from team to team?
Biron: In Buffalo it was a bit of a different setup; it was always a cartoon character that we came up with. I had a design when I was in Philadelphia that was vintage but I never got to wear it because the other masks fit better.
Sheaf: Which goaltender’s mask during your time in the NHL or growing up have caught your attention and stuck out in the crowd?
Biron: A lot of them. I think there are a lot of creative things out there, a lot of cool masks and different masks. It’s really interesting to see what everyone was doing. Sometimes the simpler designs are better. I remember Patrick Roy with Montreal, it was just blue lines with a Canadiens logo on it. Then you had guys like Ronnie Hextall in Quebec City with the big polar bear, Curtis Joseph that always had that “Cujo” dog and Ed Belfour with the eagle. These are trademarks for these guys.
Sheaf: Being a goaltender in the new era of the NHL and facing the increasingly fast paced action the league offers, can you imagine now playing without a helmet or mask like decades-old legends Jaques Plante and Johnny Bauer did in the early heydays of the NHL?
Biron: No. The position has changed tremendously. From 10 years ago, to 20 years ago and up to 50 years ago. You look at guys like Ken Dryden, who had a little back equipment and a tiny mask. And back before that with Plante and Bauer, all these guys, it was a totally different game for them.
photo Steve Hiscock