Olympic uniforms are usually strictly enforced from athlete to athlete, each one an exact copy of the next, indistinguishable from the bunch. Except for Olympic hockey goaltenders, who get to design their own masks, and they do so brilliantly.
Hockeys players are generally considered an odd lot, and goalies are the weirdest of the bunch. It was a goalie who famously ranted about the "humungous big" universe on HBO's 24/7. The last lines of defense usually get to add some personal flair to their helmets, and the Olympics are no different. Goalies paint, or pay other people to paint, unique designs on their helmets. They often feature themes that call back to their team, or play style, or personal life. One goalie recently included his kids' finger painting on his new mask. Inside the hockey world, there are whole websites dedicated to following goaltenders and their art, like In Goal, which was an invaluable resource putting this together.
Most goalies heading to Sochi have special Olympic masks designed for the occasion. The results are, uh, unique. Here, we look through our five favorites:
7) Tuuka Rask's Roaring Finnish Pride
Rask, who normally plays for the Boston Bruins, always has a bear on his mask, and his Sochi one is no different. But this one is a big special because the bear is holding a Finnish flag in each hand. Those appear on each side of the helmet. The adjustable panel on the back of the goalie mack is where the Rask really comes over the top. A single, muscled arm clad in gold bands holds a sword in the middle of a lightning storm, electricity flowing throughout. "Finland," is written in a red script you would expect to see on a metal album at the bottom. Hell and yes, sir.