Mike McKenna: Why My New St. Louis Blues Mask Means So Much
Signing with your hometown team is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and having the ability to collaborate on a custom piece of artwork paying tribute to your city is just too cool. Being part of the St. Louis Blues organization is a dream come true. And to be honest, I have had this mask’s design in my mind for a long time, just waiting for the chance to become a reality.
I’ve worked with David Gunnarsson (aka DaveArt) for the past four seasons, so it was a no-brainer for me to continue working with him. He knows my preferences and has done a great job in the past conveying my ideas into reality.
When I first contacted Dave, I shared my ideas, but also made sure to put a little extra pressure on him: since this mask is my hometown team, he was instructed to make it my best ever! No pressure!
As you can see in the photos, I requested the Bluenote as large as possible on one side of the mask, with the famous Gateway Arch and St. Louis skyline sketched within. I love masks that look great from a distance, but also have details that you can see up close. I’m also a team-first goalie so I’d rather have the main idea of the mask reflect the organization and city I am a playing for, rather than personal interests. I tend to keep those on the backplate of the mask, which is more discreet.
Obviously the Bluenote is the most iconic image of the team, and Dave’s original idea had it on both sides of the mask. And while I liked the idea as well, I also knew that Jake Allen’s 2012 mask was going to prominently feature the Bluenote on both sides. Several others had done it in the past, too. So I decided to go in a different direction, requesting the Blues script logo on the opposite side. The inspiration for this came from my old Norfolk Admirals mask, as well as Karri Ramo’s Lightning mask from a few years ago. It offers a bold contrast to the Bluenote, and again, can be clearly identified just about anywhere in the Arena.
My other request was to include the Fleur-de-lis on the chin of the mask: this symbol is the focal point of the St. Louis flag, which also includes several converging stripes representing the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. Dave did a fantastic job of artistically transferring the spirit of the St. Louis flag onto the chin of the mask in Blues colors.
As usual, Dave included many little details in the design of the mask, but my favorite is the inclusion of a Clydesdale on the side of the mask. One of my followers on Twitter came up with this idea, and I think it’s a great St. Louis tie-in.
For those who may not know, Budweiser is based in St. Louis and utilizes this breed of horse in many of its promotional endeavors. Seeing the Budweiser Clydesdales hitched to the wagon in full regalia is an image near and dear to every St. Louisans heart, one that I felt deserved to be included in the mask. Initially I feared the Clydesdales might make the design too busy, but Dave found a cool, subtle way to include them and I couldn’t be happier!
The rest of the mask is simply an extension of previous designs. If you take a look back through my past helmets, you will see that they all feature a similar design on the forehead and top of the mask.
Initially inspired by former IRL driver Jeff Ward’s racing helmet, this basic design helps convey my passion for racing and is transferable to any team: all I have to do is shift the colors around. Race car drivers, especially in open-wheel categories like Formula 1 and IndyCar (my favorites) are often identified by the color and pattern on their helmet. It has to be distinctive from a distance and often becomes a trademark of the driver. And although Dave alters the design slightly with each mask,
they all has the same feel. I love how it gives my helmets a lineage and sense of continuity.
As I previously alluded to, the backplate is the part of the mask I feel most comfortable with having a few personal tributes.
People often ask about the “smiley halo guy”: he doesn’t have a name, but he is my little mascot. As you can see from his raised left hand, he’s a happy metalhead just like me. He also has a Saint’s halo, which is a tribute to my school, St. Lawrence University, where I was a Skating Saint. While creating him in high school, I blatantly ripped off a skateboard company called World Industries, whose mascot at the time was a smiley-faced cartoon nicknamed Devil Man.
Other features on the backplate include an American and checkered flag, as well as two M’s joined together; another little design I came up with in high school. The reasoning behind the flags should be obvious: I’m an American and I love racing.
New to this year’s mask is the inclusion of my amateur team’s logo: the Kirkwood Stars. In the past, it didn’t feel like the timing was right to include it. But being that St. Louis is my hometown, and my Grandpa helped start youth hockey at Kirkwood
over 40 years ago, it felt appropriate to include the logo on my first Blues mask.
Being a goaltender comes with amazing perks, and I can’t think of a better one than being able to design your own headwear. We all dream about it growing up, and the thrill still exists when you open the box for the first time.
The scent of fresh paint and padding is a strangely endearing aroma to a goalie. But it never gets old. Ever.