First Nations Art Adorns Miller’s First Canucks Mask
At end of last season, the Vancouver Canucks were left holding the bag after a disappointing season saw them on the outside of the playoff picture looking in for the first time in five years.
The Canucks organization started to address what they believed to be issues surrounding the club, and one of those issues was between the pipes. Enter Ryan Miller.
After being traded to the St. Louis Blues from the Buffalo Sabres at the trade deadline in an effort to bolster an already stellar Blues team, Miller struggled to find his game and St. Louis lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Chicago Blackhawks. However, Miller’s three-year contract with the Canucks is an opportunity for the US Olympian to put last year behind him and to do so with conviction.
Miller’s newest mask is designed and painted by Ray Bishop of Bishop Designs, and features the First Nations Art that is so famous in this part of the world.
When we talked to Bishop, he said Miller “asked me to come up with a design that would have more of an iconic feel to it (similar to the buffalo style mask we have done so many of in the past), but using the logo elements from Vancouver.” While the blue, green, and white are unique to the Canucks, the characters and style of the mask art are omnipresent in the First Nations art and culture of British Columbia.
The orca head that dominates the mask, with eyes and nostrils atop the mask, and large bared teeth above the cage of Miller’s new helmet is a classic character among totem poles in the Pacific Northwest. So is the small eagle that rests on the chin of the mask.
“It is simply a native tribal design pattern that I found to be recurring in most of the references I pulled to aide me in designing Ryan’s new look,” said Bishop.
The orca is a symbol of luck, compassion, and family in First Nations culture. Most often portrayed as a powerful and aggressive figure, the orca protects the people from sea monsters. Well, without much luck last year the Canucks finished outside the playoffs and here’s hoping that Miller can protect the back of the net from the onslaught of pucks. The eagle is another strong character seen as having the closest relationship with the creator, seamlessly moving between the human and spirit worlds. We imagine management and fans will settle for Miller seamlessly moving from post to post!
As for the back of the mask, It’s Miller Time! The classic slogan sits above the “Matt Man” illustration, an homage to Miller’s late cousin who passed away from complications from a bone marrow transplant. Just below that is a shout out to Miller’s wife, Hollywood actress, Noureen DeWulf.
Difficult to say in any other way, Miller had a tough season last year. Spending much of the year in the basement with the lowly Sabres, it looked like St. Louis was going to relieve him from the painful slogging that produced a 15-22-3 record in the first half of the season. Even with the sub .500 record, Miller was able to hold a .923 SV% and a 2.73 GAA. Miller faired better in St. Louis, but the Blues were surprisingly unable to go deep into the playoffs. A 10-8-1 record (.903 SV%/2.47 GAA) finished off the regular season for Miller, but he was unable to provide the backstopping St. Louis desperately needed against Chicago, going 2-4 with a .897 SV% and a 2.70 GAA. While it was a below average season for Miller, one need only take a thorough look at the unenviable positions he found himself in for most of last year. Selected for the US Olympic team in Sochi, Miller will be returning to the city and arena he nearly won an Olympic gold medal in back in 2010. He was the goaltender of the tournament for the Vancouver Olympics, and fans, players, and management staff alike are all hoping he can return to that nearly flawless form.
Bishop, an artist from Michigan, has captured the art of the First Nations beautifully on this new mask. Miller has also given a tip of the cap to British Columbia’s oldest inhabitants. The unique design is sure to capture the attention of fans and players everywhere!
Having created masks for Miller in Buffalo, Bishop also put together the St. Louis Blues mask worn by Miller last year. You can visit Bishop Design’s website, follow Ray and Co. on Twitter and/or Instagram, and Like his Facebook page. Check out some more close ups of Miller’s new lid below!