Friday, April 27, 2012

(((((Freewheelin' Fridays, Pt. 3)))))

This post is a little more hockey heavy than it is motorcycle heavy, so if you're not even mildly a fan of the best and only important sport on the plant, you may want to keep moving... However, if you dig it, read on!

I've always thought there were great similarities between motorcycle helmets and goalie helmets. Take for example the act of painting them. Ray Bishop, a custom painter based out of Michigan, painted Red Wing's goalie Jimmy Howard's mask, as well as painting numerous magazine quality and show winning motorcycles. Just like motorcycle helmets, there is a crowd out there who collects old and rare goalie helmets. Its the one piece of equipment in all of sports that gives the person wearing it total freedom of choice with how they choose to decorate it. Nowhere will you find such a strong showcase of personal expression and graphic style on equipment in professional athletics. The helmet literally and figuratively attaches whatever image it bares to the person who's wearing it, just like with motorcycle helmets. One could even draw parallels between motorcycle helmet law debates, and the crazy but little know fact that there was a huge debate for a long time over weather or not the NHL should force goalies to wear helmets. Furthermore, one could compare a motorcyclist and a goaltender as both being a little bit insane. Who would want to go out there and face 90 mph pucks, and who would want to go out there and endure the rain and cold and bugs and risk getting hit by cars? Goalies and Cyclists, both groups share the same crazy gene.

I was fortunate enough to grow up playing ice hockey in the best "hockey state" in the US-- Michigan. I was a goalie from the first day I played a game, wouldn't even consider playing any other position. As a young gun, it was always a dream of mine to one day have a Warwick mask. You see, there are regular production goalie mask that are made from cheap materials by machines in some far off factory, and then there are Warwick masks. Gary Warwick is based right here in Michigan out of Port Huron, and has been hand forming masks since the 70's. He would have professional goalies come out to his little studio and he'd make plaster molds of their faces, so that later he could hand lay the fiber glass and kevlar over them, insuring an exact fit. His designs became so popular among professional goalies that there was a period when the majority of NHL goalies wore a Warwick mask, each one coming from his tiny Michigan studio.

Eddie Belfour, one of my favorite goalies of all time, visited Gary Warwick in his Port Huron studio for a custom mask fitting back in the early 90's not long after he was drafted to the Chicago Blackhawks. After completion, he had it painted by Greg Harrison (an impressive mask maker himself) with the image of an eagle on either side. It was an instant hit, and most importantly, it looked great from anywhere in the rink-- the front row or the nose bleeds. You could tell what it was instantly, and he kept the design for his entire career regardless of what team he played for. That mask had a great impact on me growing up, and it was one of the main reasons I started to take notice of this hall of fame goalie. He was known for his hard work and clutch performances on the ice, as well as owning and racing hot rod cars(!) during the off season in Michigan.

This here is the first and most iconic version he wore while playing for the Chicago Blackhawks. Belfour was one of the only goalies to wear different colored masks for home and away games (Style points!)

After wearing just a straight black Fulmer 3/4 for a riding season, I thought i'd get handy and try to duplicate the timeless design as a bit of an homage to Gary Warwick, Greg Harrison, and of course Eddie Belfour. I didn't air brush it, didn't strip the old paint off, hell, i didn't even clear coat over it... I just used straight acrylic paint! Surprisingly, it has held up pretty well ever since. It may not be the prettiest paint job up close, but like Eddie said, it is instantly recognizable and you can tell what it is from a mile away... and really, thats all that matters.

1 comment:

  1. Right on dude. My goalie in HS had a Warwick mask. I've always been a fan of Eddie the Eagle and his helmet graphics. Nice post.