HbD Masks: 7 Spookiest NHL Masks
Halloween is finally upon us… that time of year when kids dress up and beg for candy, jack o’lanterns are aglow, and everyone curls up at home with some candy and a horror flick (or Hocus Pocus, if you’re like me) to scare the bejeezus out of themselves.
So what, might you ask, does this have to do with goalie masks? Well aside from the obvious Jason Voorhees references, NHL netminders have long shown off their darker sides with creepy mask designs worthy of All Hallow’s Eve. ESPN recently counted down their picks for the 15 scariest masks of all time, but we couldn’t resist the chance to share our own ranking for whose paint job takes the cake among the spookiest of spooky.
Honorable Mention: Terry Sawchuk, 1962
Hall of famer Terry Sawchuk makes the list as an honorable mention, mainly because it wasn’t the design that made this mask so terrifying, but rather what was underneath. Sawchuk first began wearing a mask after receiving over 400 stitches in his face, including three to repair a slashed eyeball (yes, you read that right), earning him comparisons to a real life Frankenstein. From a LIFE Magazine article in 1966 that rendered Sawchuk’s numerous injuries with makeup (pictured above):
Last year there were only six NHL goalies, but games had to be interrupted so regularly for spot surgical repairs that a new rule was passed requiring every team to carry a spare. The bloody ordeal has bred a special kind of man — half commando and half human pincushion — and it is not surprising he has special problems.
Sawchuk’s mask itself was certainly creepy, but knowing the battle scars living underneath earn Terry a well deserved spot on the list.
7. Mike Dunham, 1998
In more recent years, New Jersey netminders have mostly focused their masks around the team’s colors and logo, but Mike Dunham took a far more sinister approach by turning his bucket into the most demonic looking devil to ever grace a hockey rink.
From the razor sharp teeth and slithering tongue to the glowing green eyes and tail wrapping around from the back, this mask is creepy AF and certainly not one we’d want to face coming down the ice.
6. Gilles Gratton, 1976
Having also earned the five spot on our iconic mask ranking, Gilles Gratton’s lion mask paved the way for generations of animal masks to follow.
• More: HbD Masks: 7 Most Iconic NHL Masks
Having perhaps one of the most elaborately painted masks of the 70’s by legend Greg Harrison, Gratton’s goal with the astrology-inspired design was to scare or distract his opponents. Not sure how well it worked given his numbers, but we’ll give Gilles a spot for the ferocious paint job’s scare factor.
5. Steve Mason, 2014
There are a few things we can all agree on: 1) zombies are scary, 2) badass hockey players are scary, and 3) badass hockey player zombies are really scary. Steve Mason has had a series of zombie masks over the years, including his brand new Halloween mask with the Jets, but none have been scarier than the original bucket that turned his teammates into the walking dead.
Artist Fran Drummond did an insane job of illustrating the zombified Flyers players, and it is downright terrifying. Terrifying enough to earn Mase the number five spot on our list.
4. Thomas Greiss, 2013
Thomas Greiss seems to have a thing with these Jekyll and Hyde masks that are all soft and pretty on one side and then BOOM, terrifying on the other side. This holds true of his current Islanders mask which has a lovely illustration of the Brooklyn Bridge on one side opposite a growling Yeti monster, and what’s scarier than a monster popping up when you least expect it?
Keeping in theme, Greiss’ 2013 Coyotes mask has a desert landscape in pastel yellows on the left with some kind of evil vampire clown demon on the right. The detail in this thing is quite horrifying from the crazed eyes and wrinkles in the face to the fangs and blood dripping out of the creature’s mouth. If this thing isn’t fit for Halloween, then I don’t know what is.
3. Gary Bromley, 1980
Now what would a Halloween countdown be without a skeleton? Gary Bromley’s iconic skull mask is widely known as one of the creepiest of all time. Nicknamed “Bones” due to his thin build, Bromley rolled with the moniker and sported this life-like skull mask that surely scared some opponents back in the day. The Vancouver red was incorporated into the design around the edges, adding an even gorier effect to the already frightening design.
2. Karri Ramo, 2016
Karri Ramo has sported a series of Edgar Allen Poe-inspired masks over the years that are just flat out eerie. Painted by Jason Livery, the 2016 iteration of the raven mask includes creepy black bird silhouettes, a sinister skeleton, a giant black raven wing and blood spatter to round out the creepy composition.
The mask also includes a verse from Poe’s famous poem, The Raven, “And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor Shall be lifted – nevermore!”
Just a little creepy, right?
1. Corey Hirsch, 1995
Possibly the most overtly haunted mask in NHL history is Corey Hirsch’s first Canucks mask. “I thought it would be cool to go with a Halloween theme, since Vancouver’s colors were still orange, yellow and black at that time,” Corey described of the design process with artist Frank Cipra.
In a moving Player’s Tribune piece about his battle with mental illness, Hirsch outlined not only how he and Cipra landed on the now iconic Psycho-themed design, but the meaning behind the mask as well. The netminder wanted to make sure the mask had scary imagery, which led him to include silhouettes of the Bates mansion and Alfred Hitchcock over a firey orange sky – iconic horror imagery, and as Hirsch described, “the perfect representation of what was going on inside my head.”
Everything about this mask is dark, eerie and haunted, just as Hirsch wanted, and spooky enough to land the top spot in our ranking.
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