Mask artist reveals Mrazek mask as tribute to Ilitch and new arena
The Detroit Red Wings had one of the most compassionate sports team owners around in former Little Caesars owner Mike Ilitch.
Known for revitalizing both the Red Wings and the Detroit Tigers while under his ownership, Ilitch bore a devout love for both the sports teams he owned and the city he lived in. His contributions to revive the city of Detroit were second perhaps only to his revival of the professional franchises, which both went from floundering bottom-feeders to national champions while under his watch.
Then, this past February, he passed away.
The team wore decals on their helmets to honor him through the spring of the 2016-17 campaign, but goaltender Petr Mrazek just took it a step farther. His mask for the 2017-18 season, as shown at the start of the season, has an intricately sketched memorial on the side to honor the late owner.
What flew under the radar, though, was that the mask doesn’t just honor Ilitch – it honors the arena he never saw his team play in, as well:
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Petr Mrazek’s latest Detroit Red Wings mask is a tribute to the father of the Red Wings, Mr Iliich??. I created this design an early summer morning in my paint barn. I brainstormed a lot how to create the layout and flow in the design?. The design is also a tribute to the new home and arena of the Red Wings?. The unique ceiling construction of the arena is recreated as a part of the construction of this design. A true Storyteller design in every detail???. Thank you Petr! @pmraza34 @detroitredwings @nhl @daveart #nhl #DaveArtTheStoryteller
It was clear from the start that the mask pays tribute to Ilitch, with his face clearly along the side.
What may have gone unnoticed, though, is that the team’s new home is heavily featured in the mask’s design overall. According to Gunnarsson, he modeled the upper half of the mask’s design after the Little Caesars Arena’s unique ceiling structure, truly tying together all of the artistic elements into a work of art that’s uniquely Detroit through and through.
The sketch of Ilitch on the side of the mask features his name and both birth and death listed, but it also looks down upon banners for the team’s inaugural season in their new home. It’s heartbreaking, but bittersweet; though Ilitch played a part in getting the new arena built, he never got a chance to see his beloved team skate out there.
It’s a mixture of the clean, classic designs Mrazek loves so much and a sketched story on the bottom half, combining bold strokes and paint for the color aspects of the design with the greyscale used on the Sketch Pen Tech portions.
Titled the ‘Inaugural Mask of Detroit’, it’s the perfect way to pay respect to Detroit’s most passionate patriarch, while simultaneously looking ahead to what the future holds for both the team and the city that Ilitch protected so fiercely during his lifetime.