Sunday, May 1, 2016

BEHIND THE MASKS - Bones Brigade

I love goalie masks.  Have for quite some time now.  I love that there are goalie mask cards out there.  Been building sets for quite some time now.

I'm not in a rush to finish any of them...when it happens - it happens. happened recently.

It'd been a little slow in the card purchasing world for me and so I took a look at some options on COMC.  It's a great place to get lost for a while and maybe...just maybe find a few items on the cheap. Normally I'm hunting for Lindens and Gambles but lately I've expanded my searches to include Masked Men.

Starting all the way back in 2008/09, In The Game's goaltending release called Between The Pipes has showcased some great goalie masks by building an insert set called Masked Men.  For six consecutive years there have been a good 50 or so cards to chase.

There was a time when I gobbled up as many as I could find so I could quickly get back to my Linden hunt.  But that time has definitely come and gone.  These days I rarely search online and the shows are pretty much dried up of all I need of these pretty much forgotten inserts.

But when a lot of people forget about them...prices go down.  When prices go down - I like to buy.

So let's start right off the bat with a set killer.

2012/13 In The Game Between The Pipes
Masked Men 5
#MM-04 Gary Bromley

Bones!!!  All I gotta say is this mask looks killer.  I can only imagine what players must have thought as they barrelled in staring at that gem of a lid.  They definitely don't make them like that anymore.

Masked Men 5 was the first year where ITG went to an artist rendering of the mask as opposed to just a straight photo.  Me thinks it was due to some sort of copyright issues with photos or maybe the lack of good high-res pics to blow up and put on cards.  Either way, I thought the design and drawings looked great.

I even remember at a Toronto Expo years ago watching the artist (Paul Madden) work on new cards for the (then) upcoming Enforcers product.  Incredible talent.  I really like how they, and subsequent sets, have turned out.  I once wished that he would be the one to build my dream "Backplates" set.

Ah...the good ol' days.

2010/11 In The Game Between The Pipes
Masked Men III
#MM-07 Brian Elliott

Speaking of...I can't believe it's been 5 years since Masked Men III has come out.

I remember this set extremely well...for all the wrong reasons.  Somehow (don't ask me) all of the regular green (Emerald) mask cards had a "Emerald Version 1/1" depiction printed on the back.  Needless to say, chaos ensued.  And ITG was on high alert and damage control.  It's the reason why you see those horizontal green Masked Men III jersey cards.  An exchange program as a way of saying sorry.

When I look at this Elliott card (who has been lights out in net this playoff season) I can't help but wonder why he was chosen to be included in the product.  Did they need filler?  A more boring mask I can't think of.  Well, maybe the "I just got traded" white....but that'd be about it.

I laughed when I saw that this card was still on my list.  Crazy.

2010/11 In The Game Between The Pipes
Masked Men III
#MM-22 Jason LaBarbera

I always hoped Jason would've had more success in the NHL.  He just couldn't break through for longer than a cup of coffee with any particular team.  I guess it could've been worse.  After all, he did carve out 62 wins in 187 games played over the span of 15 years.  Most guys would kill to play in the NHL for a fraction of that time.

Did you know he even made it into games as recently as the 14/15 season?  I didn't.

I wish ITG would have used a better photo to depict more of the mask - the whole reason for this set.  You can't really appreciate any sort of design on the bulk of his lid.  And Jason's had some good ones.

He likes his music and loves his wrestling.  Metallica, Bret Hart, Hulk Hogan, The Rock just to name a few of the themes depicted on his masks.  He truly embraces the personality side of what one can do with a vision and a plan.

This card...not so much.  The skull on the chin is neat.

2013/14 In The Game Between The Pipes
Masked Men 6
#MM-34 Curtis Joseph

Now, when you want to talk about all-time great designs you can put this one on the short list.  CuJo!!!

This offering comes from ITG's last goalie mask insert set...released in the 13/14 season.  Masked Men 6 would give collectors one last chance to chase the great goalie mask cards of the day.

Knowing that makes me take another look at the Joseph mask.  It reminds me of a time when I was really passionate about masks.  Saving dozens and dozens of closeup photos each week to build a huge database of masks from all eras.  I wanted (and still want) to do so much with all of that time and effort I invested.  Maybe I still will.

But this mask just has it all.  extreme detail with the ability to make an impact from a distance.  The essence of what a mask should accomplish.

2013/14 In The Game Between The Pipes
Masked Men 6
#MM-16 Daniel Altshuller

On the other end of the spectrum - Daniel Altshuller.

Quick....what team does he play for?

Yeah, I thought so.  Why is this guy in this set?  Let's keep it to the NHLers please (I guess that's a hollow ask now seeing as they don't do this kind of stuff anymore).

I just never understood the whole junior hockey thing.  Never worked for me.

But it's one more off the list.

2013/14 In The Game Between The Pipes
Masked Men 6
#MM-48 Carey Price

Redemption.  This is a nice card.  I still can't believe Carey Price played as well as he did at the last Olympics.

Still.  Can't.  Believe.

He's turned into one of the best in the game....when he's actually playing.  Let's hope for the Habs sake (and Captain Canuck's) that it's soon.  They need him.

This card pose is another instance of "Why didn't you use a different pose?"  Something from the side?  You just never really get a good sense of how great this mask is.

Is it?  Great?

2013/14 In The Game Between The Pipes
Masked Men 6
#MM-15 Semyon Varlamov

Carly's got a mess going on here.  Cleanup in the frozen foods isle.

I have to actually concentrate for a few seconds to focus in on what the heck is going on with his mask.  I think it's like an frozen bull with a blocker and a stick on a toboggan.  Yeah....we'll go with that.

It's just too busy.  My head hurts.

2013/14 In The Game Between The Pipes
Masked Men 6
#MM-29 John Grahame

This one's better.  Race car theme.  Chicks in bikinis.

Too many Carolina Hurricanes logos though.  I get that you want to paint it up with the team colours and all, but pick a theme and go with it.

On the scale of masks in this thread, I give it a passing grade.

2013/14 In The Game Between The Pipes
Masked Men 6
#MM-40 Jim Rutherford

Lastly, we hit the vintage button.  Good ol' fibreglass.  Face shattering stuff.

The simplicity of this mask with the simple Red Wings eyelashes makes this a classic.

Remember, this was at a time when few guys had painted masks....or masks alone.  To think that guys were out there sans mask as early as 40 years ago is mind boggling.

Well, I can say that I made some good progress with my goalie mask sets.  When I take a look at my wantlist now, I can see just 8 cards are needed to finish all six of the Masked Men sets.  Slowly but surely.

Now that doesn't mean my goalie mask wantlist is just 8 cards long.  I have other mask sets (like ITG's Inspired Masks, Pacific's Ice Watchmen and even a couple Pinnacle Masks from 96/97....hey, don't rush me).

The more I think of it, maybe I've been neglecting to chase any of these cards with great haste because I don't want to finish.  I can definitely see an end to this project unless I decide to venture into other goalie mask-related cards.

For now....I'll just enjoy what I've got.


  1. That Bromley is insane - I wouldn't want to even be on the same rink as him, let alone trying to score on him!

  2. Goalie masks rule. But gotta admit... I was hoping to read a skateboarding post after seeing that title.

    1. Ha ha. I knew someone would catch the reference.

      Just for's my review (from 3 years ago) of the fantastic doc.

      I need to watch it again. It's been a while.

  3. Labarbera's been around 15 years??? Jebus.