The Islanders’ crease is looking crowded heading into the 2011-2012 season with Evgeni Nabokov, Rick DiPietro, Kevin Poulin and Al Montoya all sharing two nets in recent training sessions. There is speculation, largely centred around Nabokov, that a trade is sure to come before long. After bringing some much-needed stability to the Isles’ goaltending carousel last season, Al Montoya was rewarded with the first one-way contract of his career, so he headed into the off-season confident that he would return to Long Island this season…and in need of a new look for the coming season.
After spending last season in sharp-looking but decidedly non-Islanders mask, Montoya had the man who created that look prepare him a new one fit for an Islander. Artist Ray Bishop, who also looks after NHL clients like Ryan Miller, Nikolai Khabibulin and Jimmy Howard, created Montoya’s new helmet art.
The character on the mask has lots of people seeing flashbacks to the old Islanders Fisherman Jerseys but that wasn’t Bishop’s intent. In an e-mail to InGoal he noted that it is,
“Just a generic captain that I came up with. My idea was to come up with an old man and the sea motif of sorts…You know, just trying to do something with a little different twist, that still represents the team…It gets old seeing the same old stuff out there sometimes.”
The most personal part of the work, as we often see with goaltenders helmets, can be found on the backplate – reserved by most goalies for the personal tributes that tell their own story. As with last year’s helmet Bishop has included Montoya’s nickname “Big Cubano.” Montoya is extremely proud of his heritage and the fact that he is the only Cuban-American in the NHL. The character on the back came from his Phoenix helmet, as noted by Bishop,
“As far as the back plate, I usually try to come up with a character to go with the club, but I did a “man in the moon” type design in Phoenix, and Al liked it, so I did an new version of a “man in the moon” style character again for this mask…”