Chris Whitley may be back playing in the Central Hockey League, but there is nothing minor league about his new A-Team mask from HeadStrongGrafx.
In truth, InGoal would probably applaud any attempt to work the 1980s television show onto a mask, but Whitley went beyond the simple and somewhat obvious alphabetical tie in between the A-Team and his team, the Allen Americans.
In addition to Mr. T’s van flying through an explosion on the right side of the mask – “which typically happened every show,” Whitley noted, “something was always getting blown up” – the 29-year-old goaltender actually had the faces of four Allen players painted onto the bodies of the show’s four main characters, casting himself as Hannibal.
“I asked guys I thought might fit the role as the characters,” said Whitley, who played two seasons for the Americans before spending last year in Dundee, Scotland of the EIHL. “I asked Darryl Bootland to be Mr. T because he is a tough guy. Nino Musitell is Faceman because he is funny. Jarrett Lukin is Murdoch because I think he is crazy and I gave myself the role of Hannibal as the guy who is gonna lead us from the back end. I wanted to show the respect I have for these guys and the whole team. I would have loved to put everyone on it, but I designed the mask right after I signed and wanted it before the season started.”
Whitley, who played one game in the AHL two seasons ago, had previously used Batman themes on his helmets, but wanted something different for his return to Allen. So he had HeadStrongGrafx wrap the entire thing in an American flag, with the team logo on the forehead and the A-Team theme everywhere else, right down to the bullet holes throughout.
“I had this idea for a while,” Whitley said. “I was a fan of the A-Team TV show as well as the  movie and thought it would be a goood fit with our team name. The mask actually has the American flag wrapped around it and the front has our logo with bullet holes again signifying the armed battles the A-Team usually goes through.”