Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Hometown Headgear

A goalie’s canvas, the one piece of equipment a hockey player can customize; his mask. The artful aesthetics of the mask began in 1967 when Bruins goaltender Gerry Cheevers began painting stitches on his mask each time he took a puck to the face to signify the many zippers it saved him. Since the auspicious beginnings goalies have donned many fancy facelifts with some paying tribute to family while others have sported anything and everything including their favourite cartoons. (Yes, Avalanche goalie Petr Budaj has Ned Flanders waving a Slovakian flag on the rear of his mask.)

However, few have honoured such a noble cause as 18-year-old QMJHL goalie Karel St-Laurent. A native of Ville Ste-Catherine, Quebec the rookie netminder who plays for the Saint John Sea Dogs was asked what he wanted on his first custom mask? His answer was simple: something to honour his new town. Together St-Laurent and team equipment manager David Kelly decided to honour fallen Canadian soldier Private David Greenslade. Greenslade, a 20-year-old Saint John native was one of six soldiers soldiers killed April 8, 2007 by a roadside bomb.

“What more Saint John could you want than someone who sacrificed their life for us to be able to live the life we do and to be part of the game that we love?” Said Kelly.

The artwork itself depicts a portrait of Greenslade on the left side with the words “Lest We Forget”, while the right side is adorned with a silhouette of a soldier bearing a Canadian flag. Important themes to the young St-Laurent who thinks, “we all need to support the troops. I wanted to paint it for his memory.”

The mask was painted and prepped in time for the Support Our Troops game where St-Laurent led the Sea Dogs to an overtime victory in front of members of Greenslade family.

And for his selflessness, St-Laurent’s headgear will land itself in the Hockey Hall of Fame following the season, not a bad place for an 18-year-old backup.

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