As you may know, I'm a big fan of goalie masks. I like looking at and knowing about as many different goalie masks that have been worn in the NHL as possible. Be it the classics like Martin Brodeur, Ken Dryden and Jacques Plante all the way up to today's art like Al Montoya and Corey Crawford.
One goalie who definitely has an iconic mask is that of John Vanbiesbrouck from his days with the Florida Panthers. Proof's in the pudding.
What I find interesting is that in his days beforehand with the Rangers, Vanbiesbrouck switched up his mask a number of times. I guess he was never quite happy with the look. His days after Florida, especially with the Flyers, saw more variations (I remember him adding a glitter-type look to some of his lids).
But with Florida.....it was status quo.
Or was it?
Check this card out.
1993/94 Topps Stadium Club
#85 John Vanbiesbrouck
Lovely posed shot I know, but take a look at the goalie mask John's leaning on. Clearly something different than his go to mask. Remember, the Panthers just came into existence in the league and I don't even think Beezer had even played a game in Florida colors before this photo was taken.
Could this be a first version mask? Is it a mask that belongs to another Florida goalie (Mark Fitzpatrick was the other goalie picked in the 1993 Expansion Draft)? Or is it a mask that was brought in specifically for the shoot?
In doing some research, I found dead end after dead end. It doesn't seem as though much is documented about the mask. Believe it or not, I have seen it a couple times before.
I also saw this mask (don't ask me how I remember this all...it must be from my obsession with masks at the time) in an NHL-produced video called NHL's Masked Men - The Last Line Of Defense. Here's the snippet with Vanbiesbrouck (go to about the 3:15 mark).
No mistaking John Vanbiesbrouck there with comedian Jay Mohr....and it's Mohr who is wearing that rare mask.
So what's the story behind this goalie mask? I for one would love to know. It just goes to show you...photos can often reveal the answers, but there are occasions where it will instead pose more questions.