[Editor's Note: Last year Jason Levine — possibly shown at right — prepared a assessment of the Stanley Cup Finals goalie masks, which ran in the middle of this weekend post. He's back today with this year's version, just in time for Game 1 tonight in Vancouver. Enjoy. — PL]
By Jason Levine
I’ve been a Bruins fan for 30 years. Not a bandwagon rider, not a “What happened to the Nordiques?” occasional rooter. No, I’m hardcore. As a kid, I would draw pictures of Pete Peeters in his goalie stance. Later, I crafted my own Bill Ranford-style black Cooper helmet, complete with cat-eye cage. I still have the satin Starter jacket with the spoked B on the chest that I got in middle school. And the replica Doug Keans sweater I had as a kid hangs in my home office. And, yes, I was at the famed 1990 “lights out” finals game at the Boston Garden.
So this year’s Stanley Cup mask comparison is going to challenge my objectivity. But it’s worth the effort, because this year’s masks present an interesting battle of differing approaches.
Let’s start with Vancouver starter Roberto Luongo. He’s always scored points with me for switching up his mask frequently (a trait he shares with Tim Thomas) and for using the dark cage almost exclusively since he broke into the league in 1999. But whereas his cage used to fade into some very intricate and lively mask designs, now it offers a marked contrast to the relative simplicity of his current headgear. The cleanly painted Vancouver V contrasts well with the “weathered” off-white background, though I’m torn on whether it’s good or bad that this particular off-white appears nowhere else in the Canucks livery. Why can’t Roberto at least wear matching weathered pads and gloves?
The skating Canuck on the forehead is much better than the oversized logo that was on another retro mask he donned this season. Definite minus points for the relatively obnoxious Reebok logo, however.
All in all, this mask works quite well, especially in terms of how it conveys Luongo’s size in the net and how it contrasts with Vancouver’s home and road sweaters. This design catches the eye and evokes the speed of the game with the simple but bold striping. Luongo’s backplate is clean, which seems appropriate here.
(As an aside, this is not a new look for Luongo. Back in 2006, when the Canucks first experimented with reverting to their original colors, Robert wore a similar mask with slightly less weathering. It marked a stark contrast to the mask he wore for most of that season.)
Luongo’s backup is Cory Schneider. Here’s the story on the origin of his mask. The design honors several former Canucks goalies. Great concept, but the design is a bit too chaotic, since it attempts to pull logos from several eras onto one palette. Plus, and I can’t stress this enough, the white cage pulls your eye away from the design. I would have tried reflective silver, or maybe the Luongo off-white.
Now to the Bruins. Let’s start with the starter: Tim Thomas is actually in his second stint with the Bruins. Before playing in Europe, he saw a little action in 2002-03 and wore a fairly traditional modern mask. But when he rejoined the Bruins in 2005, he brought along this unique hybrid setup from Sportmask. Over the past few seasons, that hybrid setup has evolved into a more traditional mask format, albeit with less traditional artwork.
This season Thomas rolled out what I call his “paint-by-numbers” design (further details on it can be found here). It’s a complex setup, and the first time I saw it I thought Thomas was going to send it back to be colored in, especially since his previous masks were pretty lively.
While I love this intricacy of the artwork on the current mask, I wish he’d add some color to it (a good Photoshop contest in the making, perhaps). In addition to looking plain, the lack of color makes the artwork too difficult to read from a distance. And I’m torn regarding the forehead crest, which is apparently taken from a medallion Thomas wears. I can’t argue with the message, but it’s rare to see goalies display “personal” trademarks in such a prominent place. Usually that’s backplate fodder. The “TT” personal logo on the chin is a bit better, because it’s more subtle.
Thomas is backed up by Tuuka Rask, who’s worn the same design ever since he first saw action for the Bruins in 2007. I don’t necessarily hold that against him, because it’s a pretty effective setup. The Bruins teeth and claws bring some drama, and I love the gold cage. Plus the subtle use of a decidedly un-Bruins red in the Bruin’s eyes conveys that there will be blood — a great hockey touch. The surname on the chin is bit big, but that’s okay, because the viewer’s eye is definitely drawn first to those teeth. Meanwhile, Rask’s backplate features a Finnish flag and an aggressive last name treatment. Overall, a quality effort.
So who wins this battle of melon cases? I hate to say it, but I think I have to give the nod to Luongo. Fortunately, I don’t think that will have any bearing on the outcome of the series.
CONTEST! With the Thrashers having flown north — and not just for the summer — the relocated franchise and the NHL will soon be unveiling a new team name, logo, colors, uniform set, the works. Of course, they’ll botch it up, so we may as well do it ourselves, yes? Whip up your best concepts for the team’s name, logo, and uniforms (you must include all three) and send them directly to me by June 8 — that’s one week from today — and I’ll feature the top entries in an upcoming ESPN column.
Meanwhile, a quick post-mortem on the Thrashers: Obviously, nobody will miss the embarrassing sleeve treatment or history’s worst NHL alternate jersey, but I’ve always liked this jersey (I hate how they ruined the Bettman-striped version), in part because I’ve also always liked this logo. I love how it has no outlines, no black lines — just fields of color. Much like the original Wizards logo, I consider this to be one of recent history’s more underrated designs. I’ll miss it.
Finally, it’s worth noting that the Thrashers are the second NHL team to leave Atlanta (the first, of course, being the Flames). How many other cities have lost more than one team from the same major sports league? Off the top of my head I cam up with the following:
• Cleveland lost the Rams and the original Browns.
• New York lost the Giants and Dodgers.
• L.A. lost the Chargers, Rams, and Raiders.
• Washington lost the Senators — twice.
I’m sure there are others I’m overlooking, but that’s enough to get us started.
Moo and Oink Dept.: Over the past half-dozen years or so, a neighborhood shop called Fleisher’s Meats, located in the Hudson Valley town of Kingston (that’s roughly 2.5 hours north of NYC), has become arguably the most important butcher shop in the country. That status is partially due to Fleisher’s high-quality product, which has been embraced by consumers and restaurants alike. More importantly, though, Fleisher’s has established a broad range of training and apprenticeship courses, which are teaching a new generation of butchers (something near and dear to this carnivore’s heart).
Now, in a development that is likely to keep me from ever moving out of my current apartment, Fleisher’s is opening a shop in Brooklyn. And it’s going to be right around the corner from me.
I already have a relationship with Fleisher’s (their upstate shop sells a certain T-shirt of mine) and I’m looking forward to being involved with the new outlet in some way. More details soon.
Too good for the Ticker: Got a note last night from Mike Fitzpatrick. It began, “This is probably way to obscure and old to even warrant investigation…”
An opening line like that usually means that the topic at hand is either a total snooze or brilliantly sublime. In this case, happily, it was the latter.
“Back in the mid- to late ’80s,” Mike’s note continued, “the Tigers’ warm-up jackets included a dot in the lower-right part of the old English D. As a kid, I always wondered why it was there. It seems too deliberately separate from the rest of the pattern to simply be a result of a manufacturing glitch or something like that.”
Indeed it does. I’d never noticed that before! Does anyone know more?
I happily confess that this is my favorite type of Uni Watch subject matter — the small, overlooked detail that’s been right under my nose (and maybe yours too..?) for decades. I’m smiling now just thinking about it! Big thanks to Mike, who’s note totally made my night.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Some designer guy is trying to create an art book about the AirMax1 (thanks, Kirsten). … Here’s a great old Astros lunchbox (with thanks to Michael Koch). … Also from Michael: Stetson University is accepting ideas for a new mascot. … In a vaguely related item, the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism is accepting design concepts for a revised food nutrition label (with thanks to Brian Mazmanian). … Yikes, imagine if Chief Wahoo were an NHL mascot. … Mets Police blogger Shannon Shark thinks the Mets should retire Gary Carter’s number. I respectfully but firmly disagree. Carter played only five seasons at Shea — way too small a span to justify number retirement, whatever his level of performance. Speaking of which, his numbers for the last three years of his Mets tenure were very weak (look at 1987, ’88, and ’89). Carter will always have a special place in Mets history, but you don’t retire a guy’s number because of one at-bat in Game 6 of the ’86 Series, or for what he accomplished in Montreal, or because he has cancer. Indeed, retiring Carter’s number now would be such an obvious knee-jerk response to his illness that it would trivialize his on-field accomplishments. You want to give him a Gary Carter Night, a sleeve patch, a fund-raising drive for cancer research, whatever, that’s fine. But for a franchise that has always had a high bar for retired numbers, Carter doesn’t make the grade. … The Fashion Institute of Technology just opened a new exhibit devoted to the intersection of fashion and sportswear. I’ll be checking it out soon. … Someone at the Dallas Coca-Cola bottler has some major spelling and punctuation issues. Patrick Woody took that shot at an Albertson’s in the Casa Linda neighborhood of Dallas. … This would make a fine addition to the Uni Watch library if not for the price (nice find by Robert Marshall). … New wordmarks for Maryland. … Here’s one of the more unusual championship ring designs I’ve seen. Click on the photos to see larger versions (nice find by Mark Weinstein). … A blog called the Nationals Enquirer had to change its name to Nats Enquirer because the National Equirer tabloid threatened legal action (with thanks to William Yurasko). … As usual, the A’s got the short end of the flag-desecration stick on Monday, since the caps never match their color scheme. But they made up for it, sorta/kinda, by wearing camo caps during BP. Hey, at least they matched the team’s colors! Now, you could say that the A’s can now claim the prize for wearing twice as many asinine faux-patriotic headwear designs on Monday as everyone else — in fact, I’ll say that right now — but the story is slightly more nuanced than that. Turns out that the A’s got those camo caps by trading A’s caps with a real military unit. And Dallas Braden went further by trading his entire uniform (let’s see A-Rod try to cross the mound while Braden’s decked out in camo!). Full details — including a lead sentence that mistakenly conflates Memorial Day with Veterans Day — here (with thanks to Michael Cross). … Recent Pirates call-up Josh Harrison is wearing No. 62, but Brian Young notes that he’s apparently wearing Evan Meek’s batting helmet. … I often describe things I like as “tasty,” but some things are tastier than others. Dan Cichalski spotted that jersey over the weekend at the Cape Cod Baseball League Hall of Fame. … Also from Dan: Ever wonder why Jays pitcher Kyle Drabek wears No. 4? Here’s the full scoop. … Two great finds by Bruce Menard: an old Tigers prototype and what Bruce accurately describes as “the best trainer’s jersey ever!” … When a major college football coach resigns in disgrace, what’s the best thing to do? Exploit the situation for promotional purposes, natch (with thanks to MJ Kurs-Lasky). … Here’s a probable first: The Newark Bears are charting pitches on an iPad (with thanks to Dan Cichalski). … Here’s a good look at how the NBA Finals patch looked for both teams last night. … We’ve all seen pitchers wearing a jacket while running the bases. But have you ever seen a pitcher wearing a “World Champions” jacket? (Great discovery by Jerry Wolper.) … I recently ran a wire photo of Joe Montana wearing No. 19 during the run-up to Super Bowl XVI. Now Brendan Slattery has found a color shot that was presumably taken the same day. … New logo for the Pac-12 championship game (with thanks to Kyle Mackie). … David Pealing notes that this year’s Madden cover should be fined due to the exposed knees. … Phil and I are catching tonight’s Mets/Bucs game at Shea, and we’re planning a little sartorial maneuver that should make for a good photo-op. Details tomorrow. … What with the holiday weekend and all, I neglected to acknowledge the death of visionary beat poet Gil Scott-Heron. Gil had his problems, and also his limitations, but at his best he mixed up a potent brew of intellect and outrage that spoke truth to power and called bullshit for what it was. Although I’ve always been partial to “Whitey on the Moon,” his signature tune remains “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” which reads like an anti-branding manifesto for our (and all) times. RIP, brother.