Optimus meets Jesus on James Reimer fans-and-faith mask
James Reimer has made no shortage of headlines with his stellar play this season – and for the inspiring story of his rise from fourth-round pick and ECHL afterthought to playoff run hero for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Reimer himself once called his journey from small town Manitoba to the Maple Leafs a miracle. The 23-year-old has certainly inspired faith from the fans – and he recognizes both his faith and his fans on his masks.
Toronto’s fans get their tribute in his newest mask (pictures at bottom), which is much like the old one with the exception of adding on a small modified Transformers symbol to the right cheek. It’s a play on the Optimus Reim nickname given to him by a fan who began selling t-shirts with it (and the symbol) on his Pucking Hilarious website.
Reimer has embraced his fan, and told Globe and Mail reporter James Mirtle he is even considering a completely Transformer-themed mask for next season.
As for the faith, that’s something the religious Reimer has always embraced. From growing up in a small Mennonite community like Morweena, to tending goal for the Maple Leafs, Reimer wears it proudly (he recently talked about it in a separate Globe and Mail article by Mirtle). It’s right there on the back of his current mask, which also features a pond hockey game from his youth on one side, and Hockey Night in Canada icons Don Cherry and Ron MacLean on the other. The guy on the backplate is a little more famous, though.
“I’m a Christian so I have a picture of Jesus pulling Peter out of the water,” Reimer told InGoal Magazine earlier this season, adding that his faith has played a big part in his ability to stay on an even keel while riding a roller-coaster first season in the big leagues. “That’s obviously big part of my mental game, the Good Lord helps me be focused and confident and calm and stuff like that. I can’t disregard that at all.”
The bible passage referenced above the image of Jesus and Peter – “Matt 14:31” – is also not without significance, and seems very fitting for both the overlooked Reimer and the Maple Leafs: Matthew 14:31 reads: “Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
That faith was tested by a New York Rangers comeback on Monday that left the Leafs playoff hopes on life support, but Reimer insists it is a big part of his success in a position that requires so much mental strength. So too if the slogan on the left side of his mask’s backplate: “Obstacles are things you see when you lose sight of the goal.”
It’s one of 10 mental tips Reimer’s former major junior goalie coach, Andy Nowicki, drove into him in Red Deer.
“Andy gave me a little sheet with 10 things for success and I’ve taken two of those and one is a simple saying: Don’t give yourself the luxury of a day off,” said Reimer, adding the other is on the back of the mask. “So in this work if a guy is screening you, or there’s a guy in your crease or a penalty, if you are worrying about that you are losing sight of stopping the puck and winning the game. So it’s a nice saying to have to battle through adversity.
“I have all of these things on my helmet for a reason.”
~ Here are some up-close looks at the updated mask completed by artist Dave Gunnarsson of Daveart.com. It is essentially the same design he was already using with the addition of the “Optimus Reim” logo representing the nickname that his growing legion of fans have given him.
Gunnarsson describes the design:
I am very proud to be James Reimer’s painter. This design is a continuation on his previous and enormously popular mask with lots of details that I got the honor to create. The design is a celebration of his childhood.
The paintings on the sides are very similar to the ones on the first mask, just some minor changes. On one side you see children playing hockey on a pond, and in the background you see a house with light in the windows, mother and father are waiting for the children to come in from the cold. I love to create paintings with much details that tell a story. This side I created like a motif in a children’s book.
The other side is a tribute to James’ favorite TV show Hockey Night. I painted Cherry and MacLean in blue tints in a layout on the side with glistening stars around. Around all this I put together a Maple Leafs design with the beautiful maple leaf and graphic lines that tie the whole together, creating a truly unique design. And if you look close, we have also incorporated a small celebration of Reimer’s fantastic fans on one side of the mask.