BEIJING - A long time ago, in hockey rinks far far away, ice hockey goaltenders would not wear any protection as they fearlessly dove in front of pucks. Before Michael Myers-esque masks and further along down the line extensive protection equipment, a goaltender’s face would be the canvas for art projects brought along by the puck. Scars, bumps and bruises would soon be replaced by helmets and masks, and, thankfully, protective equipment for goalies increased.
Shortly after, goalies were able to show off more of their personalities by inviting artists to paint their buckets and provide conversation for players and fans alike. Now, personalized helmets are a staple for the men and women between the pipes, and each goaltender gets to show off a little bit of their personality and in some cases inspirations.
Jen Lee and Griffin Lamarre, the two netminders for the U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team, are no different. Each bucket showcases the red, white and blue in different ways, and each goalie has their own form of representation and inspiration.
Lee has a white paint-based helmet with a white cage. At the bottom of the front of his bucket is his last name written in Mandarin Chinese. Lee is fluent in the language, and has been helping translate for the rest of the team while over in Beijing.
On one side is a painting of a special person in Lee’s life, a young boy named William.
“William is a special kid that I mentored that has a special place in my heart. I mentored him about two or three years ago. He was diagnosed with osteosarcoma and was battling through. He had to get his leg amputated, but unfortunately the cancer spread and he finally laid down to rest about last year in September.”
He has another tribute to William in script on the back of his helmet, a saying William’s parents used to say: Where there’s a Will, there’s a way.
On top of the helmet, there are red and blue stripes with a tribute to one of Lee’s old teammates and best friends, the legendary Steve Cash. Lee put dollar signs on his helmet. Cash money.
“Last but not least, there’s Julie “The Cat” Gaffney. I’m a huge Mighty Ducks fan.”
LaMarre’s mask shows no shortage of Team USA pride. After playing on the U.S. Sled Development Team for seven seasons, LaMarre could not be more excited to be making his Paralympics debut during the 2022 Games.
On one side of his mask, he dons the classic USA Hockey shield logo. The red, white and blue shield has a gold trim around it. On top of his helmet is the USA logo that is being used on the jerseys for this year’s Olympic and Paralympic jerseys. The red, white and blue stripes start at the top of the mask and are broken up momentarily by his chrome cage before finishing up at the bottom of the mask.
“Last but not least, I have a tribute to my home state of Massachusetts.”
The outline of the state of Massachusetts has an American Flag embedded in it to get the true American feel.
There’s pride on the helmets. Pride to be a part of the team. And pride to represent the United States. One thing is for sure: when you look through the mask at the eyes of the goaltenders, the intensity will be there. They will be ready.