Stickers are SOOO cool: custom goalie masks for cheap
If you’re anything like most members of the goalie nation, chances are that a big part of your fascination with playing the position has to do with the coolness factor of strapping on all that equipment. At the very top of the coolness factor scale, the goalie mask surely comes in first place. Old guys like me remember sticking black and white hockey tape over that Johnny Boweresque clear plexi mask for the zebra effect, or etching fake scars with magic marker a la Gerry Cheevers. For others, the marque de commerce that evokes the best memories might be the Palmateer blue zig-zag or Dryden’s CH bullseye, Eddie Belfour’s screaming eagle head or Stephane Fiset’s impregnable ice cube wall, Felix Potvin’s stylized cat or Grant Fuhr’s gushing oil well. The bottom line is that almost all of us love the way the mask gives its wearer a particular character and mystique.
Moreover, the proof that this notion has carried over into the current era is the literal explosion of high-end mask painters. Today Atom and Pee-Wee kids are getting custom lids. Pro goalies now have taken to wearing different masks for special games or to support charities. inGoalMag.com has featured many of the talented artists who have turned the humble brain bucket into a literal canvas for the most varied and evocative of designs.
Of course, as in all things, excellence has a price. In the case of the custom air-brushed paint job with a favourite rendition of your-late-Aunt-Mildred-flexing-her-tattooed-biceps-as-she-wields-a-pointy-Sher-Wood-and-flashes-a-toothless-hockey-grin, the final bill can easily run into the $500+ range. No small amount, especially for a dad on a budget or a beer leaguer (I’m both of these) who fixes his goalie sticks with duct tape to make them last longer (or is that to make them heavier when used as a club…?)
James Demarco poked fun at those of us financially challenged goalies with the cartoon featured above. For me, a guy who had for 20 years been wearing a garage-sale Jofa birdcage combo, it was a provocation to find out whether there was a way to have my cake and eat it too: get a cool mask and a cool graphic without having to take out a second mortgage.
As it turns out, one of the hockey dads I know happens to own a company that does giant size industrial vinyl graphics, banners and publicity. His company, Groupe Tetu, started out with his dad doing handpainted signs, just like everyone else did years ago. Since that time, the business has evolved into a high tech service that, among other things, is able to make computer cut vinyl stickers that can cover 100% of the surface of any taxi or panel truck, or can produce 4 story high posters of Roberto Luongo for the world championships at the Colisée de Québec.
For somewhere between $100-150 bucks, Jean François Tetu can take a Photoshopped design, submitted in jpeg format on a cd, and print them on a high tech 3M vinyl sticker that comes with a protective gloss finish layer bonded to the full colour graphic underneath.
Here’s the amazing part of the process. I had always thought that stickers were cheap and fragile compared to a real paint job. My scepticism was won over when we applied them in Jean-François’ kitchen. First of all, he stretched a white decal over the entire surface of my black helmet so I wouldn’t have to paint it. I honestly couldn’t tell that it wasn’t painted in an auto body shop. Next, we spent an hour (!) getting the middle stripe correctly adjusted without folds, bumps or air bubbles. What amazed me was how much he abused the sticker, stretching it, peeling it off at least a dozen times, heating it with a hair dryer, placing it again and again until it looked right. Every time we pulled too hard and overstretched the decal, all we had to do was pull it off, lay it flat and heat it. It would instantly shrink back to its original shape and size. Remember, this is the same quality of decal used to decorate panel trucks and taxis that run outdoors in the mud, rain and snow year round.
Take a look at the final result and decide for yourself. While it must be pointed out that the stickers are not dollar-store cheap, and that they are quite tricky to apply without screwing the job up (especially on the top of the helmet where the curve is most pronounced), they provide an option that is worth consideration. Moreover, you could make a sticker of anything that can be photographed, from the Mona Lisa to a Mandinka Warrior to your late Aunt Mildred. There are artists out there who can air-brush with accuracy that is photo-real, but that kind of skill comes at a premium (as it should, since these guys don’t come a dime a dozen).
Groupe Tetu’s specialty is certainly not goalie masks, but if you wish to contact Jean François, he is open to inquiries (www.groupetetu.com). If your French isn’t up to speed (though I do believe they do business in English as well) then try contacting me through inGoalMag.com and I can inquire on your behalf. Or try leblancdesigns.com, signspecialist.com or check on Ebay for Troy Lee sticker packages.