Saturday, March 16, 2019

Art in Front of the Hocky Net

Owen Sound is a hockey town, make no doubt about it.  The local team is the Owen Sound Attack, one of 20 teams in the Ontario Hockey League.  It ranks last in terms of market size (mainly the town of Owen Sound), but first in terms of attendance at home games by percentage. That has to say something!

Anyone who has played goalie, even taking a turn in a pick-up game in the neighbourhood park, knows the value of a hockey mask in terms of 'saving face'.

I personally remember the night goalie masks started in the NHL  Playing for the Montreal Canadiens the great Jacques Plante was hit in the face by a shot from the equally great Andy Bathgate on Nov. 1, 1959.  After getting stitched up, Plante refused to come back on the ice without the mask he had been using in practice.  With no other goalie available, the coach Toe Blake, another NHL great, had to allow Plante to play with the mask.  Although that first mask was very simple, just plain white, Plante never looked back and Montreal won the cup six of the next 10 years.  (Those were the days of the 6 team league when I watched the games every Saturday night with my dad.

But hockey masks have come a long way since then, and someone got the bright idea that an exhibition of goalie masks showing off their art would be a good idea.  With the main sponsorship of McArthur Tire (J.D. McArthur was a popular semi-pro player and coach for many years here) this exhibit was put together).

The helmets in the background show the steps in creating a modern helmet, and those in front illustrate today's artwork on goalie masks.

To create a little interest and draw the crowds, McArthur Tire sponsored a giant goalie mask which was huge.  You need to see me beside it to show the scale.

One illustration on the helmet, very appropriate for the Tom Thompson Art Gallery, was Tom Thompson himself, shown in his canoe in Algonquin Park.

As part of the exhibit the gallery sought suggested mask designs from public school students.  It's interesting that students have to reach a certain before they can relate the side perspectives to the front view, perhspa a more difficult spatial task than we think.

Finally, a well known graffiti and street artist, Billy Goodkat painted a full size wall mural, from the perspective of the goalie.  Goodkat is from Ireland, trained in England, and has a B.A. in Fine Art.  He moved here in 2011 and has been painting large murals ever since, often involving school children in the process.


  1. Wow that goalie mask sure is HUGE.
    I've been to one hockey game years and years ago. I didn't realize that there are only 3 periods to a game and didn't even realize the game was over!! :)

  2. The masks must surely save many injuries , and even in cricket, they can happen if the ball goes under or between the cage? If that is what it is called. Fantastic display, and what a huge exhibit. You look great down there, those wheels are going so many places.

  3. When I lived in MIchigan in the 1960s, we watched hockey on TV, mostly Canadian teams back then. I loved watching the donnybrooks break out! :-)

  4. What an impressive exhibit, especially the giant mask with you for perspective. I remember the days before goalie masks when hardly any goalies had front teeth and some had mental issues from the stress induced by pucks coming at their heads. Our son began playing hockey on local ponds and then, as a high school student, played in an adult league. But their goalies always wore masks and the players wore helmets with face-guards.

  5. You're right. some of the helmets have become very fancy.

  6. What a fun exhibit thanks for sharing.

  7. It amazes me how long we went on accepting dangers before adopting safety measures. Cricketers were much the same: batsmen always wore gloves and pads (leg guards) but helmets weren't used for years, despite the fact that someone is hurling a hard ball at you at close to 100 mph from about 20 yds away. Motorcyclists also went helmetless in my youth, but just before I retired I was advised to make a small boy wear a helmet before going out on his tricycle!

  8. Never knew there was such a thing as Mask Art. :) Thanks for sharing!
    You do look small beside that huge mask and we aren't into hockey or ball but I do remember watching Saturday night hockey with my family too when there were just 6 teams. For no reason other than Bobby Orr, Baltimore Orioles were my favourite team and I even won $6 (wow!) in a school pool. :)

  9. We are Hockey fans here, I always enjoy seeing different teams Goalie masks, they are works of art and the exhibit you shared is wonderful!

  10. I share those late fifties and early sixties hockey memories with you. Those Toronto Maple Leaf and Montreal Canadian games with Jacque Plante in one goal and Johnny Bower in the other were quite the events on Saturday night hockey. I have not watched a hockey game since the league expanded well over 50 years ago or whenever it was. Great photo of you and the big helmet.