The BPO Investigates: Goalie Masks

In the break room on Saturday night, my colleagues and I were discussing goalie masks, and my friend Janz asked a very good question.  Why do goalies wear that full cage?  Wouldn’t it be easier to see and track the puck if they were wearing something made out of a transparent plastic?

At first we figured it was a safety issue (metal cages are stronger?) but then someone pointed out that they make bullet proof glass.  Surely there is some substance in existence that is just as strong as a metal that wouldn’t be as much of an obstruction as the cage.

My friend Roman suggested that the maybe a solid, welder’s-type mask would make it too difficult to breath. I thought that was a good point, except that you could always leave the cage for everything below the nostrils while leaving the bullet proof glass over the eyes.

To demonstrate his point that the cage must make it difficult to see a puck, Janz held one finger about three inches away from his eye saying, “I can still SEE of course, but this is very annoying to see around.”  I conducted his experiment, and had to agree.  It’s more difficult to see when there is a solid object in front of your eye.  For sure.

Janz did a little investigation yesterday on the interwebs, and he couldn’t find the answer to our question, but he DID somehow wind up watching the video of Clint Malarchuk’s gruesome injury as a result of his search.   Janz is very traumatized now, and I’m scared to continue his research.  I once accidentally saw a still photo of that accident, and I couldn’t sleep for a week.  No WAY I’m typing “goalie safety equipment” into google.

I put in a call to Crunchy, but so far he hasn’t responded.  Our investigation has hit a dead end.

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21 Responses to “The BPO Investigates: Goalie Masks”


  1. 1 Caroline May 31, 2009 at 11:28 pm

    A shield would probably fog up and even collect a lot of sweat…ew. Goalies sweat excessively. Why was Brian Campbell our excessive sweat spokesperson and not Ryan Miller? These kind of questions keep me up at night.

  2. 2 Heather B. May 31, 2009 at 11:48 pm

    Kate, I’m not gonna lie, I have a little bit of a crush on Janz right now :)

  3. 3 TheTick May 31, 2009 at 11:49 pm

    Miller wasn’t nearly as good in his screentest…Soupy’s Billy Mays-esque finger point sold ‘em.

  4. 4 Katebits June 1, 2009 at 12:40 am

    Hm. Condensation would be an issue. Well, then when I patent the welder’s goalie mask, I’ll also patent a “defroster” of sorts. :D

    Tick, that point is the best thing about that ad. No way Crunchy could pull that point off. That was the role Soupy was born to play.

    Heather, ha! I’m going to make sure Janz sees that he has a new admirer.

  5. 5 mcguffers June 1, 2009 at 1:06 am

    The cage part of the helmet isn’t as noticeable as you’d think. You kind of stop seeing the bars after awhile. Plus the plastic face masks and eye shields fog like a mo fo (not that I’m saying you shouldn’t wear one, Goose!!)

    I was actually waiting for someone to patent a full body force field that would repel balls/pucks from a goalie’s body. Crunchy should start trying to harness the power from one of his icy stares.

  6. 6 Sharpie June 1, 2009 at 2:25 am

    Bullet-resistant glass (lets be honest — enough shots and a bullet will get through, plus the glass degrades over time, especially in sunlight, or at least I once read that older versions used to do so) is not light by any means. The glass we have on the up-armored vehicles here to stop 7.62 mm rounds is about 6 inches thick and very heavy.

    The next argument is “Oh, yeah, but come one, you don’t really need bullet-proof [bullet-resistant!] glass for a goalie. The face shields the other players use isn’t as thick.” Yes, that is true, but the other players aren’t facing pucks at maximum velocity nor do they encounter nearly as many face shots as a goalie.

    I will concede that bullet-resistant glass would be way overkill though, so the issue is probably one of both the condensation build-up in a solid face shield combined with lines of site. The curvature of a face mask would cause some distortion — look through a curved window sometime if you don’t believe me, and a flat shield, like a welder’s mask would greatly hinder peripheral vision, which goalies tend to need.

  7. 7 Mags June 1, 2009 at 2:38 am

    First, I want to second what mcguffers said. You really don’t notice the bars as much as you’d think. Second, I find the cage helps me orientate. I’ve noticed that if my mask isn’t on right by even the tiniest margin, I tend miss things that I would normally have caught.

    I don’t know, I like it. I wouldn’t want something else.

  8. 8 ms.conduct June 1, 2009 at 3:58 am

    Yeah, the cage isn’t so bad. I use a certified cage and it rarely bothers me, but I bet cat-eye cages are even better (since that’s what pros tend to use, but a stick blade or butt end can go through them and seeing as how I’m not getting paid to stop pucks, I’ll keep my eyesight, thanks).

    Also, the masks are very heavy (well, mine is thankfully since I took a pretty hard shot to the head tonight and all it did was ring my ears for a few seconds) and very hot (you should see the steam billow out of mine when I lift it), so the cage provides some ventilation.

    Plus, if a puck did get through, you really don’t want shards of glass or plastic coming at your eyes. Usually, if the puck breaks a weld, the cage will dent in and you’ll maybe get a broken nose and need a new cage, but not a retina transplant. :)

  9. 9 Jill June 1, 2009 at 8:33 am

    Well going with all these responses and a quick interview I saw with Daddy Miller, he said Ryan uses angles and %’s to do his job. So I am wondering if he uses the cage to help position himself or make a judgment on more precise movements. Know what I mean?

  10. 10 Tom June 1, 2009 at 9:57 am

    2 other points…it’s hard to get optically correct plastic in a shape as big as a visor let alone a full mask. Having played hockey, I switched from plastic to the cage because of distortions that happen around the curves of the full plastic masks. Fogging, scratching, sweating, melted ice from getting sprayed by a quick stop are all reasons NOT to wear plastic. The cage does not affect your field of vision enough to obscure the puck. Even at the other end of the ice, the bar isn’t wide enough for you to lose sight of the puck entirely.

  11. 11 Katebits June 1, 2009 at 10:10 am

    Hm. You people make some good points, and a lot of you seem to be writing from a position of knowledge.

    But do the finger in front of your eye test! It’s PROOF! The cage must go! :P

  12. 12 ms.conduct June 1, 2009 at 12:58 pm

    Hold up a silver phone cord. There’s your test. ;)

  13. 13 mcguffers June 1, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    But do the finger in front of your eye test! It’s PROOF! The cage must go! :P

    :^:::::::::::::::::::::::::: A fail proof test. We were so wrong to try to disprove your theory! :P

  14. 14 Katebits June 1, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    It’s science, mcguffers! Science doesn’t lie!

  15. 15 Amy June 1, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    he said Ryan uses angles and %’s to do his job. So I am wondering if he uses the cage to help position himself or make a judgment on more precise movements. Know what I mean?

    A goalie mask protractor? It not only helps protect the goalie, but helps determine the angles of shots? Interesting multitasker, that goalie mask.

    Oh, Kate, don’t watch the Malarchuk video. It’s like the Zednik situation x 1,000.

  16. 16 Matt June 1, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    It seems everybody pretty much what I was going to say…

    1) Skater’s visors don’t break on impact because they generally don’t get the full force of a puck and they flex A LOT. Being attached only at the end of a long curve, they distort 6 ways to Sunday under stress and snap back. A sheet of polycarbonate that’ll withstand a full shot (repeatedly) would be really thick and inflexible. That means it has to be even thicker to resist shattering and that gets really heavy.

    2) Fully enclosed helmets get very hot with very little effort. I’ve got a bunch of them and not one has enough vents for my taste.
    The solution for that is mesh shields. That in turn makes the individual bars thicker again and increase blind spots and distortion. By this point, the little bit steel cages obstruct view is MUCH less than plastic. They’re lighter and cooler too.

  17. 17 Jill June 2, 2009 at 9:25 am

    A goalie mask protractor? It not only helps protect the goalie, but helps determine the angles of shots? Interesting multitasker, that goalie mask.

    Sorry for sounding dumb but if you noticed I was asking a question. Thanks.

  18. 18 Katebits June 2, 2009 at 10:35 am

    I don’t think Amy meant anything by it, Jill! She was just having fun with the protractor idea!

  19. 19 mcguffers June 2, 2009 at 7:05 pm

    A goalie mask protractor? It not only helps protect the goalie, but helps determine the angles of shots? Interesting multitasker, that goalie mask.

    Before each half (when we’d switch sides of the field), I’d go out and scuff up a hash mark in the middle of the crease and in front of my posts so I knew where they were without turning around. Looking back on it, it probably seems like I was doing intricate geometry. Heh.

  20. 20 Amy June 2, 2009 at 7:25 pm

    I really didn’t mean anything by the protractor comment! Honest! I do think it’s interesting and pretty neat that Ryan would use the mask to break down the angle of the shot. It’s thinking outside the box, that’s all.


  1. 1 Monday Meanderings « First Time Caller, Long Time Listener Trackback on June 1, 2009 at 6:00 pm

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