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Thomas and the Force: New Mask Cage has Darth Vader roots

Thomas and the Force: New Mask Cage has Darth Vader roots

Boston Bruins Goalie Tim Thomas

Boston Bruins Goalie Tim Thomas credits changing the cage on his mask for improved visual attachment, especially when the puck is in close. (Scott Slingsby photo)

Among the many factors in his record-setting season, Tim Thomas is typically quick to point to the new cage he added to his custom-made cage.

If that seems a stretch, consider the importance of visual attachment to his success, and all the times the smaller Thomas tracked a puck through traffic to make a big save, or somehow managed to find and cover it in a mad scramble, or seemed to know exactly where it was headed while making a diving stop.

If you ask former playing partner Alex Auld, it was all about vision.

“His biggest asset was his eyes,” Auld told InGoal. “He has the best eyes I ever played with. He always had his eyes on the puck and that’s so huge for him and what allows him to make those amazing saves. He can be down and out and it looks like the puck is for sure going to end up in the net, but because he is still looking he can still throw an arm up or kick a leg out and still make a save and it’s because of his ability to keep watching the puck. His eyes are incredible.”

So the fact Thomas credits his new cage for allowing those eyes to find the puck more easily, says a lot about its importance to his amazing season.

The only goalie in the NHL to wear the Sportmask Mage set up – part mask, part cage – that he helped design, Thomas went back to the drawing board with the company’s founder and mask maker, Tony Priolo, this summer. Together they made some adjustment, specifically to the cage, and Thomas has noted the improvements as a reason for his play in several interviews since.

“As a kid you grow up using the vertical bars and through college, so I was using vertical bars until age 23, so when I decided to go back and try it, it was an easy adjustment,” Thomas told InGoal. “It felt comfortable right away because I had already spent 18 years with the vertical bars. The cat eye, obviously, straight ahead you got great vision, but when it gets on its way into your body, I’ve always found that you lose the puck a little bit as it is getting really close to your body. It’s only like two or three feet out where you lose it and the puck ends up going into a jumble of bars there.

“And that’s one thing my new cage is better at. And also when the puck falls down into you, with the cat eyes I always had a hard time, even when you go to cover it I was only half seeing the puck but with the one I am wearing now I can really see it. Personal preference I guess, but I feel good with it.”

What Thomas may not know is his personal preference actually started out as a Darth Vader mask, according to the Tony Calabro, whose company OTNY Enterprises LTD supplies the wire cages for several major mask manufacturers.

“When I made that the first time it was for a Darth Vader costume,” Calabro told InGoal. “I was going to a show and I wanted it square so I was going to put an accordion where the mouth area is and Tony (Priolo) from Sportmask saw that and asked can we change this, this, and this. And I said ‘why would you want to do that?’ and he said ‘I’m going to get Tim Thomas to wear it, he likes it like that.’ I thought that was weird, but next thing I know the guy has it on.”

The rest, as they say, is history. NHL history, that is, for the multiple record-setting Thomas and his Darth Vader cage.

Tim Thomas Mask Mage

Tim Thomas credits his new cage for improved vision this season. (Photo by Scott Slingsby)

Tim Thomas black and white mask

The back of his mask may not help him see - even if there were times it appeared he needed eyes in the back of his head - but it sure looked good set against the unique black and white design. (Scott Slingsby photo)

About The Author

Kevin Woodley

Kevin Woodley is a rec-league target and former contributing editor of the Goalie News magazine. He has written about the Vancouver Canucks and NHL for The Associated Press, USA Today, Sports Illustrated and The Hockey News for the last decade, and covered the 2010 Olympics for The AP.


  1. Travis Anton

    Tim is amazing. He plays with such determination that he must have used the FORCE to make the saves he did in the cup final. I wonder if anyone else wearing his mask would have done the same (not likely). Great job Tim, i’m sure the developer of the mask will profit!

  2. Red

    It thought this article was about Jeremy Jacobs and Thomas not getting the automatic Match Penalty for a Blocker Punch to the head or the automatic Major, Misconduct, and Fine for the Spearing

    I get that people forget all the bad stuff after someone wins, but that stuff was hushed up right when it happened

    • Drox

      It was probably hushed up because Burrows instigated it and everybody knows that Thomas isn’t the kind of guy to lash out like that unless seriously provoked. He got a slashing penalty for it (that Shawn Thornton served).

      No use crying over spilt milk.

  3. Charlie O'Dowd

    I like Tim’s single-sight on the shooter approach and absolute trust in the team around,behind him, and watching his back(post). I wish him continued health, recognition to make the 2014 US Olympic Team. I feel very strongly that he (among the 3-member goalie team on the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics) could have come home with the Gold Medal. Don’t age Timmy – Bauer and Sawchuk kept their skills and remained legitimatly impenetrable late in their careers.

  4. Muttley

    The fact that he is performing at such a high level at an age where most players have already retired or are dealing with a severely declining skill set is incredible and inspiring. Keep it up Tim, all the guys out there who were always told they were never good enough are rooting for you (except maybe Montreal & Vancouver fans….HAHA).

  5. Ian Wotherspoon

    First I would like to congratulate Tim on a fabulous season and for being a BIG part of the the Bruins success in winning the Stanley Cup. He was Brilliant throughout the playoffs. I’ve spent most of my adult years coaching goalies and watching Thomas was like a dream come true. I’m sure that his newly designed mask was a good part of why he made some of those incredible saves. It gave him the edge over the shooter because he could now track the puck so much better and when the shooter thought he was down and out of position, he actually could still see the puck. All this allowed him to make some of those crazy saves he made. It also gave him the edge over the shooter. I have spent some time studying his mask and if only all goalies (young and old) could use this cage it would allow them to possibly make saves they would normally not make because they could track the puck so much better.

    We all must remember, that it’s not just the mask that allowed Tim to make those saves, it was his hard work, athletic ability, and his desire to stop the puck that made some of those crazy saves he made. Always keep your eyes on the puck.

    • In Thomas We Trust

      In regard to your last comment, Thomas’s health also played a big factor in his success. His game is based so much on his athletic ability that when his hip got hurt last year, his athleticism suffered, leading to his struggles. This year, between the new mask and his health, his athleticism and determination were able to finally show up to the party. The result? History was made.


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