But these modern masks don't interest Uni Watch so much. For all their fancy airbrushed designs, they have little of the old masks' charm -- with one major exception: When Steve Shields was with the Bruins, he had a Gerry Cheevers tribute design painted onto a modern mask, which was total genius. "It even had the ears and hair painted on, so it looked real," says Simone. "Great, great mask."
Want to take your mask obsession to the next level? Do what Simone does: Collect classic mask reproductions. There are several suppliers out there; this one is Simone's favorite, although this one looks pretty cool too. Yeah, they're a little pricey -- but hey, you should have some extra cash available since you haven't been shelling out for hockey tickets.
Other Masked Men
Hockey and football are the primary mask-oriented sports (and as the ever-helpful Curtis Worrell of Helmet Hut points out, their mask cultures have even cross-pollinated). But masks show up in basketball too, as anyone who's recently seen LeBron James can attest. And he's just the latest in a long line of masked NBA players, many of whom can be found on this handy list.
As for masked baseball players, the first one Uni Watch recalls seeing was Pirates slugger Dave Parker, who attached a football-ish facebar to his helmet in 1978 after breaking his cheek in a collision with Mets catcher John Stearns. Players wearing similar mask contraptions over the years, usually after being beaned, have included Gary Roenicke, Ellis Valentine and Andre Dawson, and anecdotal evidence suggests that Don Slaught, Robby Thompson, Charlie Hayes, and Cal Ripken may have done likewise.
Unfortunately, baseball mask photos have proven elusive, except for two images of Terry Steinbach, who wore a plastic jaw guard in 1988. If you've got pix of other masked baseball players, give a shout in Uni Watch's direction.
Did you notice the big uni-related development in the Super Bowl? It was the officials' caps, which for the first time carried the NFL logo on the front -- this in addition to the same logo already appearing on the back of the cap and the Super Bowl logo on the right side, plus all the logo patches on the officials' shirts. Uni Watch says enough already -- at this rate the refs will soon look like NASCAR drivers.
And speaking of design clutter, that Super Bowl logo was everywhere: on the first-down markers, on the end-zone pylons, on Bill Belichick's sweatshirt (which at least means he was wearing a new one, instead of an old ratty one), even on Paul McCartney's forehead. OK, not really, but that's just because nobody thought of it. Seriously, does anyone doubt that the NFL wouldn't have minded Janet Jackson's "Girls Gone Wild" routine one little bit if she had just worn a Super Bowl logo on her breast?
Wolverine in Tiger's Clothing
Last week's discussion of the various University of Michigan teams that have patterned their headwear after the school's football helmet -- whose design dates back to the leather helmet era -- drew a swift and vociferous response from readers pointing out that the winged helmet design actually originated at Princeton, where coach Fritz Crisler created the distinctive look in 1935. He then took the design with him when he left Princeton for Michigan in 1938. For more details, look here and here.