A Catalys for Change
I have always been a visor guy. As a youth, I would admire the Luc Robitalle’s of the world and their super cool fireman-like facial protection. I, of course, wore a cage but on some level, I think I’ve always wanted to be a visor guy. After many years away from the game, I recently got back into it. I immediately embraced the joy of buying hockey gear as an adult and quickly graduated from scouring local Play It Again Sports to eBay searches for pro-stock gear. As a compliment to my buckets, I’d added or kept their half shields. I enjoyed the unparalleled air-flow and (foolishly) embraced the protection they offered.
As a visor guy, I quickly formed the habit of holding a glove over the lower half of my face when I would fore-check or (half-assed-ly) block shots. I always assumed I would have this reaction, along with the time to complete it, any time a puck was hurled toward my face. On December 13th, 2017 I realized that was not always going to be the case.
While skating at an early morning pick-up game, a “teammate” of mine evidently thought dumping the puck, head-high, through a group of guys was his best play. I remember seeing the puck on his blade, then feeling/hearing that same puck hit my mouth. Nothing in-between. This guy was a well-known douchebag, so I wasn’t surprised, but I didn’t have any reaction to him other than just grabbing my face and skating off. I left all the other skaters, along with my blood and half a tooth, on the Yost ice and headed to the locker room. The “coach” of the program accompanied me and helped usher me into my new reality, one in which I would have to spend a lot more time in a dentist’s chair.
First Steps Toward Full-Shield
Speaking of Dentists, I need to shout out my favorite Dentist Office, Elan Dental, and Stephanie Keil, DDS. I showed up on their doorstep, unannounced at 8 AM, a bloody, wounded mess with cracked teeth dangling from my gums. They set me down in the chair immediately and worked on me all morning, in-between other patients with actual appointments. I will always appreciate that.
Fresh from the dentist, with my newly gapped grill, I launched into damage control. My first thought after the initial impact was “my wife is going to kill me.” After a quick negotiation, it was decided I would remain amongst the living and keep playing hockey but adopt a new attitude toward protective gear. Especially gear that protected what was left of my face. I solicited recommendations from PHEW, and after a lot of insults, it became apparent I needed a Bauer Concept III.
Before we go any further, it must be said, I’m pissed at Bauer. They bought Easton, the company that manufactured my favorite skate of all time – the Mako II. This happened about six months after I purchased my first pair, and made getting replacement parts or backup boots an exercise in treasure hunting. I hated the company even more after realizing that not only do they make what seemed to be the only acceptable full shield, but it will only mount to Bauer helmets. I was all ready to give up and return it when I stumbled across a post on modsquad.com and decided to try and modify the clips. With the help of my Dremel, I got the clips trimmed and the shield mounted.
Removing the Bauer from the Bubble
Did I mention my dislike of Bauer? Well, this bubble was totally Bauer-ed out. Coming from the world of visors, I hadn’t realized how sparse the branding was on them. Not so with the Bauer Concept III. There’s the large, gaudy Bauer decals on the side, the Bauer Bauer Bauers printed down the straps and the embossed Bauer in the Chin Cup. I decided the first and easiest fix was to change that chin cup. The Bauer one was just a lump of foam and seemed easy to improve upon, both aesthetically and functionally.
I landed on the Reebok 11K Chin Cup, which was available in four different colors. Of course, I ordered the white to match my white bucket, and an added bonus was that the Reebok Hockey brand was merged into CCM. So it even kind of matches my helmet. Another plus is the inside of the cup, which is gel padded and feels much better on my hairy chinny chin. The straps are cooler, too. The Bauer ones felt like they were too tight, even when fully adjusted outward. My face was still sore, and the compression of the bubble against my chin/lower lip irritated me. Not so with the Reebok ones. They looked and fit better.
Next to go were those huge Bauer side decals. My first instinct was to just remove them, and leave a blank space where they had been. Not only would that remove the last vestige of Bauer from the mask, but their absence couldn’t help but improve my peripheral vision. They came off, no problem, but the certification stickers on the underside were a different story. They looked weird without the decals over them, so I figured I’d take them off, too. They came off in pieces, leaving sticker residue in their place. I grabbed my Goo-Gone and started to remove the goo until I realized my mistake. The shield is coated with an anti-fog layer all through the inside and the Goo-Gone destroyed it, rendering the visor stupid looking and therefore ruined.
I used my gift of gab to exchange the fishbowl and started over.
Now for the final aesthetics
While returning my mistake, I grabbed up a couple copies of the new Team CCM advertising packet. I liked the stickers inside, one of which featured the grill one of my gap-toothed brethren, Brett Burns. I didn’t realize it right away, but one of the ‘CCM’ stickers would fit into the space where the Bauer decals were. Well, kind of. The letters were about 1/4 – 1/2 an inch too big, so I had to improvise. I took my Exacto knife and carefully trimmed each of the letters to remove as much of the serifs and spacing as possible without looking too obviously altered.
The result was okay, but still not perfect. I decided to use my graphic design skills and job perks to produce my own decals. I’m a designer at a company that primarily produces gear for wrestling (not that wrestling) competition. We make custom headgear that is basically just a decal applied to our standard headgear pads. I took one of my old Bauer decals and scanned it. I found a vector ‘CCM’ logo online and produced a decal in Adobe Illustrator. We then added them to the next round of headgear designs and I waited for the sheet to come back from the company that prints them for us.
Well, yesterday I received them and last night I applied them to the shield. Now the shield is 100% transformed and the only remaining identifiable Bauer markings are on the inside. I realize this all probably seems incredibly trivial to pretty much every other person on the planet, but it’s made me embrace the fishbowl so I’m good with it. The full shield has actually improved my game overall. I no longer hesitate or alter my approaches to protect the bottom half of my face. It allows me to be a more confident, aggressive hockey player.
To all those who’d say I have too much time on my hands, I say fair enough. But I’d ask them what they have going on in their life that is so important that it would leave them without any time for personal, albeit trivial, pursuits.
The Final Product
One of the tenants of good graphic design is that when it’s done correctly, it’s basically imperceptible. Often it’s only when things are messed up that we notice them. I realize the reveal here might be a bit anti-climactic, but I’m pleased with it. If you hadn’t read this post or talked to me about the mask, you’d probably never realize the (mildly obnoxious) amount of time that was put into it. But, between the improved chin cup and complete absence of Bauer branding, I couldn’t be happier with it.