Chris Mason could hardly hide his excitement about packing up the family for Saturday’s drive to Winnipeg.
Not only was the trip from his summer home in native Red Deer, Alberta considerably closer than last year’s pre-season roadie to Atlanta, but with all due respect to the fans in Atlanta, Mason sees the chance to stop pucks for the Jets as a boyhood dream come true.
“I was definitely Bob Essensa on the driveway a lot,” Mason told InGoal Magazine shortly before leaving. “It’s home, or close to home, and any athlete would jump at the opportunity to play close to home, especially getting later in a career, having a couple young children, and being so accessible to our family. And playing for a team we grew up watching is another major honor for me. I just can’t wait.”
Aiding in Mason’s excitement is what is waiting for him Monday in Winnipeg — his new mask, a first for the new Jets franchise.
Commissioned especially for him and painted by Steve Nash of Eyecandyair, Mason put a lot of thought into his new lid, and not just because it will become a piece of history as part of the first NHL season back in Winnipeg. Mason has always put a lot of effort into his masks, taking the time to sketch out his own ideas and then counting on Nash “to make it 10 times better.”
That wasn’t easy this time, in part because they haven’t seen the uniform, but after carefully considering retro and tribute themes, they focused instead on the Jets name and new logo, adding in an Iron Maiden twist to produce some impressive results.
Mason’s thoughts on the process are mixed in with the pictures below – and he talks more about Winnipeg-versus-Atlanta from a player’s perspective at the bottom – but for more of Nash’s fantastic work please follow them on Twitter and “like” their Facebook page today. You can also click on the pictures to go direct to their Mason page.
“We went back and forth, lots of phone calls, and I sent Steve some sketches and he did some art and sent him back and we mulled over a bunch of different ideas, and then he came up with the Iron Maiden Eddie in the old fighter jet and I thought it was perfect and I loved the image and thought that was really appropriate for the Jets,” Mason said of the band’s famous mascot. “I’m a fan of a few songs and Aces High is one song I really like too, so it’s kind of perfect I like the song and the artwork for the single was this Eddie in a plane.”
The Iron Maiden Eddie in question appeared on the Aces High album cover, and was originally created by artist Derek Riggs, an artist that inspired Steve Nash throughout his own career.
The Jets theme continues with a team logo on the chin (below) and military wings extending from the front up the sides.
“We did a modified Jets logo and put my number (50) on the wing, and I think it looks awesome with the Maple Leaf behind the jet,” Mason said. “I’m a big fan of the logo, and I just love having the Maple Leaf on my mask, so I’m really excited about that.”
The back plate (below) is where things get personal for Mason, who is expecting his second daughter in October.
“Steve came up with an eagle family done in native art style,” said Mason, who will once again be wearing a mask made by Tony Priolo at Sportmask. “It’s a mother eagle protecting her two young children with sky in background. I think it just looks awesome.”
(If you look closely, you can spot the family name spelt out across the wings)
Mason had repeated praise for the work put in by the husband-and-wife duo of Steve and Steph at EyeCandyAir, especially under difficult circumstances given the lack of information on the look of the new Jets jerseys. And if the team eventually decides to pay more respects to their past with a throwback jersey night, don’t be surprised if Mason and Nash are working together again on a retro-themed lid.
That one will be easier to figure out.
“Definitely my favorite Jets mask was Bob Essensa,” Mason said of the current Boston Bruins’ goalie coach. “So if they do a third jersey with something like that I would have definitely one something like his or close to his because I loved his masks.”
For now, Mason is just happy to follow in Essensa’s skate strides, instead of pretending to in his driveway.
“I’m so excited to get to Winnipeg,” Mason said. “I’ve always wanted to play in Canada and I’m just really excited to get that chance. I know it might not be the most popular answer for people in Atlanta but that’s how I feel. I’m looking forward to this a lot.
“It was tough in Atlanta because in my opinion it just wasn’t an optimal hockey market. The fans there were awesome but there just wasn’t a broad range of support, so it was tough some nights to have that feeling it didn’t matter so much and hockey wasn’t the most important thing. Going to Winnipeg you’re not going to have that feeling at all. It’s going to be everywhere, it’s going to be the opposite spectrum.”