As NHL goaltenders report for physicals today and the start of training camp on Saturday, there is a lot of excitement among the puck-stopping fraternity about some of the shiny new paint jobs they’ll sport on their masks this season.
has been on top of the latest lid designs throughout the summer, but there is one we never have to worry about tracking down because it never changes. But as predictable as Chris Osgood’s old-school helmet and cage may be, the story behind it trumps any tricked-out, inked-up mask.
After all, how many goalies can claim a direct link to Russia’s once-dominant Red Army teams – not through a paint job, but through parts used?
Osgood can. Desperate enough for fresh parts for his long ago discontinued Bauer SK2000 that he had tried bidding on eBay and worn shells coated in auto bumper paint in St. Louis, Osgood found a solution after returning to Detroit in 2005.
Actually, it was long time Red Wings equipment manager Paul Boyer that found the answer while discussing the dilemma with team Masseur Sergei Tchekmarev, who used to work for the Russian Red Army.
“He said ‘while I have those back in my garage in Moscow’ and I said ‘while over the summer can you bring two back?'” Boyer recalled. “He brought two back, just the plastic shells because we have plenty of the same foam, so the mask that Ozzie is wearing now was once a part of the Red Army program.”
Boyer adds it was an extra helmet, an empty shell never worn by a Russian player, but it begs the question why do the Red Wings go to such lengths to keep Osgood in a helmet-and-cage set-up as outdated as a two-pad stack?
It’s all about comfort, said Osgood.
“I tried a few masks,” he said. “I just find I can’t see as good out of them and at my age now it’s tough to change, I’ve used the same thing for so long.”
Osgood once tried a more modern version of the helmet-and-cage similar to the Warwick model worn by Dominik Hasek when they played together in Detroit. With a composite one-piece shell made of carbon fiber, Kevlar and epoxy resin mold, Osgood admits it was safer than his outdated bucket, but the three-time Stanley Cup winner still couldn’t convince himself to make a permanent switch.
“If I take one flush with mine, it might or might not cut me, but I’m going to feel it a lot more,” admitted Osgood.
That’s because the helmet-and-cage set up presents more surface area for a flush puck impact than the smaller, more streamlined masks preferred by most of today’s goalies. It’s the reason Los Angeles management cited when insisting Dan Cloutier abandon his old lid in 2006, a forced move that played a legitimate – and underreported – role in his quick fall from grace with the Kings.
Fortunately the Red Wings haven’t asked Osgood to do the same. And while that may mean no new paint jobs to show off, it still makes for a good story.
Vancouver-based hockey writer for AP, USA Today, The Hockey News, Sports Illustrated