After growing up in Quebec, Yann Danis isn’t going to pretend he used to cheer for the Oilers or worship their great players of the past, but as part of the Edmonton organization for two years now, the 31-year-old had no hesitation going with a Grant Fuhr theme for his new mask this season.
Created by artist Stephane Bergeron of Griff Airbrush, Danis switched from last year’s blend of Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and Fuhr, to an all-Fuhr theme this season.
“Obviously Fuhr was a big part of their success,” Danis told InGoal Magazine of the Oiler’s dynasty of the 1980s. “You aways hear about Gretzky and Messier but as a goalie I know Fuhr was a huge part of to because there wasn’t always a lot of defense being played, so he had to stand on his head a few times back in those days.”
There is symmetry in Danis, who was named the top goaltender in the AHL last season, switching to a Fuhr theme this year.
Much like Fuhr behind those young Oilers stars in the early 1980s, Danis is backstopping the organization’s next generation of offensive greats, with the lockout leaving young NHL-proven stars like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi and Taylor Hall (once he’s cleared medically) playing with Danis for the Oklahoma City Barons.
“Back in the 80s most of those guys were young with the Oilers and it’s kind of the same thing now,” Danis said. “It’s fun to watch and pretty exciting to have those guys with us. Having them here has raised the level of play and it’s been high-tempo from the get go, so it’s good.”
Back then, Fuhr gained a reputation for making big saves at key moments. Danis knows he’ll be expected to do the same, but cited consistency as the most important factor in his success last season, and believes it will be just as important now.
“You’re gonna get your goal support but you are expected to make the keys saves at the right times,” Danis said. “But consistency is still the biggest part at this level and that was what I tried to focus on last year and it’s what I will focus on again, just show up every night and give the team a chance to win.”
That consistency, added Danis, comes from a strong technical and tactical base, but just like that toes-up glove save Fuhr is depicted making on the right side of his new mask, the Oilers’ goalie knows there are times you just have to react naturally.
“Yeah, definitely, I think you are seeing a little bit more of that nowadays,” he said. “I think for a while it was all about technique and being square and kind like the block butterfly style, but now from what I see guys are still going butterfly, still going technical, but keeping your arms loose and staying athletic and not just going down and block. But still things like good leg recovery looks easy and everything, but it’s something you have to work on every day. I practice so it becomes natural and fluid when you do it during a game. You have to constantly work on it as a strong base.”
It’s interesting to note the CCM logo on Fuhr’s stick and blocker on the left side of Danis’ mask, especially at a time when hockey’s oldest company is getting back into goaltending (see InGoal’s account of our visit with them in Montreal and our preview of the new CCM line in the October edition of the InGoal Digital Magazine). Danis is sticking with his Reebok for now, but remembers fondly visiting the old factory in the family basement of the Lefebvres, who created both the Reebok and CCM lines.
“I have been using Lefebvre stuff since I was 12,” Danis said. “I got to go a couple times to Michel Lefebvre’s basement to pick up my gear there when was a kid and to see them working on Patrick Roy’s gear and see that stuff around was pretty impressive.”
Which brings us back to Fuhr. Unlike Roberto Luongo, who was the rare Montreal native that fell in love with goaltending because of Fuhr’s glove saves, Danis admits his early idol was Roy, especially during his time with the Canadiens.
“I watched him play and tried to copy his stye as much as possible and got the chance to go to a few hockey school and work with Francois Allaire a couple times when I was 14 and 15, so he’s definitely the guy I looked up to,” Danis said.
That doesn’t mean there was any hesitation to honor Fuhr on his mask.
“The history is obvious and I try to pay tribute to that,” he said.