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Meet Hockey’s Grandmaster Mask Maker – SportMask Tour with Tony Priolo

I have been wanting to meet Tony Priolo of Sportmask for some time now. Of course, I was intrigued to learn more about the man who developed the MAGE, about his custom molding and all the pro clientele he works with. The big reason though, that I wanted to meet Tony, was his customer service. I had been reading on the Goalie Store boards one day and saw an amazing story pop up. Tony had let someone take some old defective masks from his shop. He did it on the promise that they never be used and never be sold. Long story short, the guy did sell them. When a buyer contacted Tony because his mask was defective, what did Tony say? He apologized. He said he did not sell it to the guy and in a world where most people would have stopped there (it’s not my problem!) Tony offered – even insisted, because the guy actually wasn’t asking for a new one – to replace the mask. That is standing by your product and providing remarkable service.

Sportmask web site

Not long ago, I had the opportunity to drop in on Tony at his Sportmask shop in Oakville, Ontario to see the inner-workings of the construction of some of the best masks in the business. Tony and client Tim Thomas created the MAGE that Thomas has worn for years and he counts other pros like Jonathan Quick, Cam Ward and Chris Mason amongst his many satisfied customers.

Sportmask Mage Tim Thomas

Tim Thomas wears the Sportmask MAGE. Photo by Scott Slingsby.

Please check out the entire photo tour after the break!

Tony is justifiably proud of his work – beginning like many as a goaltending-obsessed youngster he has turned his love of the sport into his passion and his livelihood. I’m sure lots of us have dreamt of getting out the fiberglass and making a new lid – but Tony took that first step long ago and ran with it. He’s no hobbyist in his basement. Tony is a professional who engineers some of the finest masks in the world and prides himself on the best quality control in the business.

I hope you enjoy this photo tour of the Sportmask shop. Take a few minutes to visit Tony’s web site and learn a bit about his great masks.

Tony Priolo at Sportmask

Tony shows us a rack of stock T3 masks before they are cut for retail.

Sportmask puck cannon

Tony's pride and joy - the puck cannon.

Tony is proudest of his quality control. He had this “puck cannon” made to fire pucks at new masks and test their integrity. How much can they handle? Check out the steel plate behind the head. When it was first built there was only the steel mesh there. A 400 km/hr flying puck tore through it like butter.

Tony tests masks made from every new batch of materials he receives to be sure his masks are always the best. And yes, he did once send an entire batch of cloth back because a mask didn’t stand up to his testing. His supplier had sent him new cloth from a different (read, offshore) supplier.

the Sportmask cateye

You can tell when a pro is wearing a Sportmask by the distinctive cage. Note the flat center bar and the logo engraved. This is Tony's "signature" because the NHL requires fees in the tens of thousands to permit a company name on gear.

Sportmask Chris Mason

Chris Mason's next mask gets the finishing touches after being removed from the mold.

Sportmask raw mask

Masks just out of the mold don't look much like the finished product on a store shelf!

Sportmask Tour

One half of the mold. Unlike the old days the cloth isn't laid on a positive image of the face anymore - it is sandwiched between two halves of a mold and vacuum cured.

Tony Priolo and Jacques Plante

Tony and Jacques Plante

A real fan of the game, Tony was excited to learn a client had an original Jacques Plante mask. Tony was allowed to take a mold of the inside of the mask – since the original mask was made from a mold of Plante’s face this cast he made from the mold reveals some of the exact contours and even marks on the legendary goalie’s face.

Sportmask Vintage

Vintage masks aren't a big part of the business - but remain an important part for Tony who is a real fan of the guys who laid the foundation for today. Can you recognize this famous one?

Sportmask cages

Hundreds of Sportmask cages await their masks.

About The Author

David Hutchison

David is one of the founders of InGoal Magazine which he began in 2009. Of course he finds time for some goaltending of his own as well, and despite his age, clings desperately to the idea that some NHL team will call him to play for them - though in his mid-forties (OK, late 40s) it'll likely be for a practice when everyone else on their depth chart has the flu and the shooter tutor has gone in for repairs.

20 Comments

  1. Mark

    Flat center bar invented/first used by Dom at Pros Choice.

  2. Rob L

    I’ve played with a couple lids, and Sportmask is best I’ve ever used, hands down. I’ve taken plenty of slappers to the face and have never had my bell rung wearing a Sportmask. I’ve even taken shots to the side of the head, where other masks aren’t quite as protective, and still have never been shaken by a shot. Well done Tony!

  3. JR

    I wear a Sportmask Razor – on it’s 4th year, third cage.
    It is an absolute tank of a mask.
    Thanks Tony my head salutes you!

  4. Kris

    I have 2 Sportmasks, my 1st was just retired after using it about 8 years, my 2nd just got a new paint job and is now in service!

  5. Gerry Lafreniere

    what I wouldn’t give to paint a Razor

  6. Mark

    Hi Kris, what model did you just retire?

  7. Kris

    I just retired the Razor VX, (And honestly I retired it cause the paint was taking a beating and it needs a refurb. It still could be used with no issues) and I searched for about 6 months until I found another one, I love that mask!

    And Gerry If you need a Razor to practice on….heheh

  8. Matt

    When I started playing hockey when I was really young I used a helmet/cage combo due to its lower cost and eventually got into the habit of wearing one. After several attempts at trying to switch over to a mask I couldn’t so I was wearing player helmets lacking sufficient protection to play goal in. Then I found out about the Mage, tried one on and instantly fell in love with it. I’ve taken a few dingers to the head and have never felt a thing. Without compromising the vision and feel of an h/c combo the mage successfully provides oustanding protection. Tony is a true visionary!

  9. Mark

    Fifth picture from the bottom. “Masks just out of the mold don’t look much like the finished product on a store shelf!” Those are not shells from a mold. They are templates.

  10. Lars Carlsen

    My son is 10 and playing in elite AAA hockey, so is going up against some other kids who can really rip the puck. After seeing his off-the-shelf mask get dented by some hard slappers, we forked out for a Sportmask. Not only was it significantly lighter than the older mask (a big plus for a young goalie), but he has since taken multiple shots off the head and not lost a beat. Just recently he caught a blast off the point right on the forehead. He was back in position and looking for the second shot before the ref blew the whistle, figuring my son must’ve been suffering from the shot. No such thing. A great investment on our part.

  11. Ross P

    Not only is Tony priolo the legendary master mask designer and builder, he also plays drums , and he’s also a perfectionist on them!.Check it out..

    • Ross P

      Tony is on utube . Search taurusdrummer

  12. fernando dos santos

    would like to know if u r coming out with a larger version of the mage rs size 24 xl according to ryan messier of hockey geeks you r working on it please get back to me thanks fernando

  13. Steve

    Both my wife and I are loyal Sportmask customers and have been for almost a decade, going back when Tony first started out of his house. I started off with a Mage and now I’m in a Mage RS (and not because the first one needed replacing). Wife still have the original Ricochet she bought. Tony’s customer service is top notch and he’s an all around great guy. You can’t go wrong with Tony and a Sportmask!

  14. Dan

    Greetings,

    I too am wondering if the Mage RS will ever be offered in an XL size. I wear a 7 5/8 – 7 7/8 mask now. I am really interested in purchasing one in the future, but I am reluctant to purchase one since the current senior size will probably will not fit me. This is simply a killer looking and feeling mask I have read. I am looking forward to the increased sightlights to help my play!

  15. Michelle

    Does your shop in Oakville have a retail store?

  16. Gent

    Saw an older sport mask, seemed pretty solid but took the cage off and could have folded the thing in half. Not my idea of solid protection a all, and from what I have heard Cam Ward goes through 12 or more a year due to breaking. Why he still where’s them is beyond me, not something I would be willing to spend money on or bet my life on. For what you spend and what you get not worth it in my opinion. Money should be no object when buying a mask due your research, call and email, ask all the builders all the questions you can, it’s your brain and your life spare no expense.

  17. Humberto Yanez

    is there anywhere i can find a cat eye cage for my razor? i cant find it anywhere, i originally ordered one with a cat eye and was sent the regular fence cage and i hate it so much.

  18. Marco

    sorry, but the BEST goalie masks made by anyone ever on the planet were made by Ernie Higgins of Norwood, MA. Check the masks worn by Cheevers, Giacomin, Mario Lessard, and a whole host of others, including Jim Craig in the Olympics. I worse this same style mask and it was BY FAR a superior mask to anything worn today.
    today;s masks don’t even come close. These masks today could carry ernie Higgins’ jock strap.

    • Don

      I have worn a T3 Sportmask for the past 6 years and it has been fantastic. Comparisons to 30 year old masks is silly and without merit. The carbon graphite used in today’s top masks is far lighter and stronger than standard fiberglass cloth. Common sense would dictate that if the older style masks were better, pros would be still wearing them. There is a reason why they are not.