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Custom helmets are always a treat for the Winter Classic

December 23, 2011

I’m completely obsessed with goalie equipment. It is a problem. At one point I had three mask prepared to be sent away and painted. Unfortunately fortunes change and only one of those got a paint job.

Aside from the even itself, the best part of the Winter Classic each season is the different gear the goalies sport. It hasn’t become a yearly tradition – some goalies don’t bother making changes to their gear – but a majority of the goaltenders to participate in the Winter Classic have made some change to their appearance to reflect the  event.

The easiest and most common change is to simply get a special paint job done for the day. Only six goalies have decided against any change, including their helmets. Although, Brian Boucher did wear a touque, despite keeping his normal paint job.

Gear changes have been more rare, but seem to be trending towards the norm in recent years. Dany Sabourin was the only goalie to wear different gear than his usual until last season in Pittsburgh.

There have been 21 goalies involved in the five Classics (three in 2008 due to MAF’s injury). Only Jocelyn Thibault, Ty Conklin (09), Chris Osgood (09), Nikolai Khabibulin (09) and Sergei Bobrovsky (12) have chosen not to add anything to their look whatsoever. The remaining 16 chose to make some change, whether it be a helmet or pads.

Since ranking each individual’s look based on gear would offer an unfair advantage to some, this Winter Classic history lesson will be based on the helmet designs while offering bonus points for gear.

  1. Henrik Lundqvist takes the cake for his mask and gear set up for the 2012 Classic. He went with a full makeover, sporting some vintage white pads and a new paintjob. The pads are only so-so, but the paintjob is phenomenal. The worn look on the mask and cage make this look perfect. A+ for the design and execution.
  2. Tukka Rask is second for his Green Monster mask. The tattered Yankees jersey was a nice touch and incorporating Fenway was cool. Too bad the mask didn’t get a chance to see the ice in the 2009 Classic.
  3. Dany Sabourin didn’t get to see the ice in the original Winter Classic. Had he played better leading up to the game, everyone would have been treated to his phenomenal throwback set up. The pads perfectly compliment the unique helmet. The paintjob isn’t as outstanding as the first two on this list, but the full look gets him in the top-five.
  4. Tim Thomas went with a pretty basic look for 2009. His pads remained but he had a commemorative paintjob done up. It was well executed and the Bruins portion looks great from a distance and up close. The eye black helped too.
  5. Cristobal Huet could have gotten bonus points for his pads had he not worn them for the first half of the season. However, his special edition helmet looked awesome. A great paintjob incorporating the Wrigley marquee and the “Go Hawks” written on a car windshield (not pictured).
  6. Brent Johnson had a great set up for last year’s classic. His pads and mask worked perfectly with the special uniforms. A well done setup that trumped the starter’s look.
  7. Ilya Bryzgalov’s best mask for this season has barely been worn. His tiger helmet looks strange compared to the solid white-based lid he sported early on. His Winter Classic mask is busy, but an ode to Philly sports history. It looks great and is well executed, especially considering how much is going on the helmet. Add in his vintage Vaughn pads (and sick gloves) and you have a winner.
  8. Ryan Miller’s pads matched the uniforms the Sabres chose to utilize in 2008, so he didn’t need to make a change in that regard. His paint job looked cool, despite being partially covered. He gets points here for the paintjob and the use of the hockey sock hat. Those two combined sneak him into the top ten.
  9. Ty Conklin went with a special design on his helmet in 2008, he chose against it in 2009. However, the paintjob looked pretty good for the original classic. He would have been higher had he scored bonus points for matching gear.
  10. Martin Biron chose to honor Gilles Gratton with his design for this year’s classic. His brown Bauer pads will look great with the vintage uniform and the helmet. I don’t love the design he chose for the helmet, but it still will look great on the ice.
  11. Michal Neuvirth had the better of the two helmets in the Washington Capitals locker room too. The white based design looked great and had all the right elements. A well done design for sure.
  12. If Marc Andre Fleury wore his current alternate mask and pads in last year’s Classic, he would be the runaway winner.  Sadly, he didn’t have those at his disposal in 2011. The mask design looked good, but didn’t come close to matching the jerseys they wore at Heinz Field.
  13. Sergei Bobrovsky’s mask was just unveiled recently and it looks pretty solid. It is a little reminiscent of Lundqvist’s (same artist) but it sill looks pretty cool. Nothing outstanding, however. Here are his pads.
  14. Michael Leighton had a simple, but solid design for his 2010 mask. It looked cool from a distance and the skyline was just as cool up close. It doubled as his mask the rest of the season, but it was a solid design for the Winter Classic.
  15. Semyon Varlamov’s helmet design was painted by Dave Gunnarson, the same artist who did the work on Lundqvist’s and Neuvirth’s masks. The design isn’t bad, but it looks like a helmet you would find in Dick’s. It certainly doesn’t hold a candle to Neuvirth’s.
  16. Marc-Andre Fleury is the only goalie to appear on the list twice. Again, his gear from last year was great and the helmet was pretty well done, just not great. However, his helmet from 2008 looked silly. The enormous 29 on the right side looked out of place while the Pens logo on the left just couldn’t make up for the number. An average design, at least no one needed to see it during the game.
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