Friday, November 27, 2009

Coolest Goalie Masks

"My face is my mask."
- Gump Worsley

This month marks the fiftieth anniversary of one of the most historic events in the game of hockey. On the night of November 1st, 1959, Montreal Canadiens great Jacques Plante took a slapshot (fired by New York Rangers star, Andy Bathgate) to the face, breaking his nose and cut for several stitches. Before returning to the game, Plante insisted that coach Toe Blake allow him to try out something he'd been tinkering and experimenting with in practices for the past two and a half years - a protective mask. Plante was known as one of goaltending's greatest innovators even before this as he was always looking for ways to improve his performance. Blake didn't like it but Plante declared he wouldn't go back in the net without the mask. Blake didn't have anyone else he could play so he gave in. The Habs won 3-1.

The original terms that Blake and Plante agreed to over the mask was that Plante would take it off after his face was fully healed. Blake continued to grumble about the mask but ever since Plante put it on, the Canadiens continued to win, going for an amazing streak of 18 straight games without a loss.

On March 8, 1960, Blake insisted that Plante take the mask off. Plante acquiesced and the Canadiens lost 3-0. From that point on, Plante always played with a mask. Others would soon follow.

By 1974, goalies everywhere in professional hockey were masked men. Besides serving as another form of protection, the masks also served the purpose of allowing goalies to express themselves creatively. And it's been that way ever since. The art of decorating goalie masks has become a business in itself and players at every level - from beer league to pro, are sporting custom masks. I encourage you to browse the internet to see just how many cool designs are out there.

But this list will count only those masks that were worn by goalies playing at the highest level - the NHL (and possibly WHA) as these are the most well-known masks that have captured imaginations for generations now and inspired designs to this day. No very modern masks make the cut for the simple reason that it was the early masks of the seventies and eighties that look the most badass. What they may have lacked in facial protection and peripheral vision they more than made up for in style.

5. Gilles Meloche - Cleveland Barons
Meloche's career is the type that you always feel for - a consistently good goalie who always had to play for consistently weak teams. It's interesting to consider just what he might have accomplished had he not had to suit up for the Oakland/California Golden Seals, Chicago Black Hawks (who were actually pretty good but they had Tony O so they sent Meloche packing), Cleveland Barons, Minnesota North Stars and Pittsburgh Penguins. The North Stars teams he was on in the early eighties were pretty good too but his time spent in other places, particularly California and Cleveland, helped ensure he would pick up plenty of losses. With 351, he's currently third on the all-time list.

But one good thing came from his time as a Cleveland Baron - he got a cool mask. The Barons's uniforms weren't much to look at (what was in the seventies?) but Meloche's mask was one of the most colourful and dynamic of its era.

4. Gary Bromley - Vancouver Canucks

Basically a second-stringer throughout his career, Bromley nonetheless can take his place in goalie history by virtue of his awesome mask. He played parts of six seasons in the NHL but spent more time in the WHA, AHL and Central League (he did win the Calder Cup with the AHL's Cincinnatti Swords in 1973). By the time he arrived in Vancouver in 1978 he was fairly well-traveled.

His play as a Canuck never wowed anyone but in 1980 he donned a mask based on the nickname given him by his teammates, "Bones" (at 5'10, 149 pounds he was a pretty skinny guy). He usually had to explain this to people who asked about the mask because they were befuddled that such a quiet and calm individual was sporting such a sinister and audacious mask. In those days the only other mask with such a detailed paint job was Gilles Gratton's "lion" design and everyone knew that guy was a nutjob. [see my other goalie list for more info on Gratoony the Loony]

3. Ken Dryden - Montreal Canadiens

Unlike most of the other guys on this list, Dryden's career certainly wasn't defined by his mask. In fact, as a guy that didn't even play eight full seasons in the league, one could argue his career was as good as a goalie's can possibly be. Yours to consider: after playing just 6 games in the 70/71 season as a callup, he almost single-handedly defeated the heavily favoured Boston Bruins in the playoffs to help the Habs win the Stanley Cup. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy for his efforts. He was still eligible as a rookie the following season so he won the Calder Trophy. Over the rest of his career he would win the Vezina Trophy five times as well as five more Stanley Cups. He sat out the 73/74 season to study law, recorded at least 30 wins in every season and was one of the two goalies for Canada at the famous 1972 Summit Series against the Russians. There are books written about this guy so go read one.

Now to the mask. While the previous two I've mentioned made this list for their amazing detail and flashiness, I really love Dryden's mask (which he started wearing after his return from his stint at McGill University) for its sweet simplicity. Painted by artist Carl Lamb, the mask feautured a bullseye type design of the Canadiens's bleu, blanc et rouge and was sometimes referred to as the "target mask." Beautiful.

2. Dan Bouchard - Atlanta/Calgary Flames

It's pretty much simplicity the rest of the way for me. This mask is probably my very favourite when all is said and done and it's very popular among hockey fans and mask afficianados everywhere.

Bouchard's reasons for switching from a plain white mask to a painted one were actually somewhat scientific. During practices a girl in the employ of the Flames would mark down the number of shots taken on Bouchard that were above and below his knees. Bouchard would switch between wearing a white mask to one covered with red tape and the results eventually showed that shooters were going high more often when the taped mask was being used. Bouchard felt more comfortable handling higher shots and decided that a coloured mask was the way to go. He started using it in the 76/77 season.

After leaving the Flames, Bouchard would play for the Nordiques and then one final season with the Winnipeg Jets. By that time he was using a plain white helmet and cage ala Dominik Hasek and Chris Osgood but the memory of his coloured mask endures to this day. People often visit him at his restaurant to bring him their own masks painted in that style for him to sign.

1. Gerry Cheevers - Boston Bruins

Wihout a doubt, this is the ultimate mask. Cheevers was no slouch in net and ranks among the greatest Bruins goalies of all time. He backstopped their two Cups in the early seventies and continues to hold the all-time record for longest unbeaten streak by an NHL goaltender (32 games in 71/72). And like a few other great players (Mark Messier and Brett Hull both come to mind), Cheevers wasn't a big fan of practice. In fact, he admits that he was always looking for ways to get out of it. This is what led to the mask.

During the infamous practice, Cheevers took a shot to the mask. It wasn't a hard shot by any stretch and he wasn't hurt in the slightest. He still went down like a ton of bricks. Trainer John (Frosty) Forristall hopped the boards and went to Cheevers, helping him off the ice and into the dressing room. Moments later coach Harry Sinden charged in, yelling at Cheevers to get back on the ice. Sinden was more than familiar with Cheevers's stance on practice and told him that shot couldn't have broken a pane of glass.

Defeated, Cheevers started putting his gear back on. While he was doing this Forristall took out a black magic marker and drew ten stitches on the mask in the place where the puck had hit. What had started as a joking form of protest grew into a tradition as Cheevers added more and more stitches for every subsequent time his mask took a hit. No symbolism was really intended but it's there clear as day anyway - without the mask on, a goalie's face would become a roadmap of stitches and scars. And there's no denying that it just looks awesome. Even with all the elaborate and striking designs that have been painted on masks in the years since, Cheevers's mask remains the most recognized and celebrated design in hockey history.

During his time with the Bruins, goaltender Steve Shields wore a modern era mask with Cheevers's mask painted over it - a mask on a mask. Cheevers still has the original in his possession but donated another he'd used to the Hockey Hall of Fame where it can be viewed along with so many other famous pieces of hockey history.

Online Gaming Stereotypes

Have you ever ventured forth into the world of online gaming? It’s a scary place. Simultaneously you have to encounter some of the oddest people that society can dole out, and ultimately find out that no matter how good you thought you were at a game, there is probably someone out there that can hand your ass to you.

It is, however, so very entertaining when you have a headset and can actually interact with all of these individuals. Here are some of the people you’ll encounter when you game online.

This list assumes that you are playing games online with an in-game microphone and no video. I’ve played a few games where a stream through a webcam is possible, but its rare. Thank you and have a nice list.

5. Pre-pubescent Grade Schooler

You will probably not go five minutes into a match online without hearing this little bastard. The shrill, blood-curdling sound of his voice will cause a lightning storm to traverse your spine. The worst part? There’s no avoiding them.

Although video games, in general, are most often played by 18-34 year old individuals, 35% of game players are under the age of 18. I think whichever researchers came up with these numbers should also work on finding out why most of the male gamers under 18 years of age have voices like little girls and have chronic “Won’t Shut The Fuck Up” Syndrome.

Your first instinct will be to find these kids annoying, and trust me, they are. To make this kid infinitely hilarious, however, all you need is the next player on this list.

4. The Angriest/Most Hate-filled Being... EVER

When you interact with the outside world in your day to day life, you invariably meet assholes. These men/women are so cantankerous you would rather gnaw your own leg off than run into them at the water cooler or ever worse (gasp!) have them as your boss.

Wait till you meet them on the online competitive front.

Connecting to the internet gives any person a whole new form of anonymity. You can be anyone. For those asshole bosses/co-workers that means only one thing… let that black, viscous hate for anything and everything out.

These guys want to end all life as we know it. If you take too long to set up the match, he will indeed call you every possible derogatory name he can think of, racist or not. In fact, racism doesn’t even really come into play; whether you’re a minority or not, you will be called a racial slur. He hates everyone with equal measure. When he dies in game, the very Earth itself trembles with his rage.

There is nothing in this world that this individual hates more than the Pre-pubescent Grade Schooler. Having the two in the same game, on the same team, and able to interact with each other is an instant source of entertainment. Either one alone is incredibly annoying (which is why they’ve landed low on the list), but put them together and it’s like baking soda and vinegar, friends. Don’t even talk. That might cause the Hatemonger to focus on you. No, you want all that anger being oppressed on the child. I know that sounds sick and twisted, but it is so very true.

I’m telling you folks, fireworks for your very own enjoyment.

3. The Best Player Ever (If It Weren't For This Lag!)

Remember your sports heroes as a kid? Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, Bo Jackson… yes, that’s right, The Pro Stars! Behemoths on the court, rink or field, they were unstoppable. No one could ever touch their skill. They rose above the rest and became legends.

Well that guy is online! That’s right, and in your favourite game! You’ll hear him let loose with cries of, “What!? I hit that guy! Fuckin’ lag!” or “He didn’t even touch me! How am I dead!? Arrgh, fuckin’ lag!” If it weren’t for the lag, this guy would be the cream of the crop. He will, however, never reach this greatness.

“Lag” is generally the best excuse you’re going to hear. Most of these fuckballs (yeah, I said fuckballs) don’t even have a real concept of what lag is. Most commonly they think that their opponent’s internet dropped, making them some kind of super-human, invincible being that couldn’t be shot and could kill them without them ever knowing it. The fact is it’s more than likely their own internet connection dropping so that they become the game’s most delicious target. Trust me, though, they’ll never admit to that. None of this is, or could possibly be, their fault.

Other great excuses include that the game is “broken” and they can’t wait for the next patch so they can continue to dominate, or that their opponent is a total cheater. He probably built a “lag-switch”, a device that allows a player to interrupt the flow of their local network traffic, making them, admittedly, into a video game “ninja” that can glitch about the screen and never be killed. Sure, that happens. But not every single guy you meet online has one of these. Unfortunately for the Best Player Ever, their life is one constantly filled with lag, glitches, poorly designed video games, and ninjas.
For example, this guy blames lag and a mysterious "net code" for his issues.

2. Rednecks

You think that rednecks don’t use technology? You are so very wrong. I can attest, at least when it comes to games with guns, most often army/war-related, you will run into a fair majority of these guys. They permeate the servers of your favourite online game. Even in the areas that are clearly demarcated “Canada”, “EU” or “AUS”, they will be there. You’d think they’d never leave their precious US servers. Oh, do they ever. I guess someone needs to teach all those heathens, war-hatin’ hippies and terrorists where their place is.

Guess what they wanna talk about while they’re playing? Guns. Oh dear God. That’s all they want to talk about. What’s worse is that they will, because of their numbers, invariably find another redneck to talk to. You will have to sit through an entire game of complete gibberish, smattered with the words AK-47, machine gun, desert eagle, and all sorts of other guns.

Landing in a game that is completely comprised of these guys is like accidentally wondering down that dark country road in Appalachia. In the distance you can hear a tinny sound. Music? You venture forth, unsure of your surroundings and find a single, small child, banjo in hand. As the child breaks from his all-too-familiar tune and spits a black, gummy substance into an old soup can, you realize just what kind of trouble you’ve gotten yourself into.

Run while you still can.

1. Smoothest Black Guy You Ever Heard

A lot of people take online gaming altogether too seriously. A lot. Most actually. It's as if every guy that enters a game takes a deep breath and slaps his manhood on the measuring tape. You get a lot of angry guys cursing and blaming everything under the sun for why they didn’t dominate that last game.

The most chill mother-fucker you will ever encounter online is the Smoothest Black Guy You Ever Heard. It would be stereotypical to say that this guy probably just got done smoking a bowl, but look at this list. It’s literally a list of stereotypes. So guess what? This guy definitely just smoked a bowl.

As soon as he speaks you feel at ease. Not only is he smooth. He’s down-right smoky. Life is so fantastic for him. He just chills out and plays games, man. It’s a wonder that his blood continues to pump. He vegetates to the point that he’s stopped aging. He… fuck it, you get the picture.

When all of the above individuals start hammering at each other and the shrill voiced pissants, gun enthusiasts, charcoal-infused hate-creatures, and future MLG stars begin their battle, you can always count on the SBGYEH to take care of everything in a matter of seconds.

Let’s lay out an example from my own experience.

The game: SOCOM US Navy SEALs: Confrontation for the PS3.

The setting: I came into the game late and was forced to a team. You can choose your side in the pre-game setup, but if you join late you are forced to the side with the least amount of players. Little did I know that I was put on the side with a clan completely comprised of females. What’s a clan? It’s basically a group of individuals that create an online team and usually play competitively against other clans.

So I finished out the first match with this clan. When it was over we went into the next match’s pre-game setup. At this point I’m still on the side with the all-female clan, which is gigantic.

I actually left the room for a minute to take a leak after I “greened up”, which is a SOCOM term that means you set yourself as ready for the next match. 50% of the people in the room have to “green up” to start the match.

When I came back I found that the match still hadn’t started. I put on my headset to see what was up. I found out that the all-female clan wanted me to switch teams and wouldn’t green up until I did. I tried. There’s a slight glitch in SOCOM: Confrontation at this point, however. Sometimes you can get locked on a team and you have to actually leave the room and come back in to reset it. I didn’t know anything about this at the time. This brought me up on the radar of the hatemonger. He started screaming at me, “Switch teams you incompetent fuck! Are you fucking retarded? Switch teams so I can fucking kill your ass and vote you already!” Voting occurs when individuals on your team vote to keep you or remove you from a game. I screamed back at him, something along the lines of, “I can’t, so shut the fuck up!”

I was just about to leave the game when I heard my savior. The one, the only, SBGYEH. “Nah, man. You just wanna stay on the team with all those fine ladies. It’s cool, though. I’m feelin’ ya.” He then let out that slow, smooth laugh of his. “I’d burn one down with ya. Leave the room and come back so we can get this ass-whippin’ started.”

That’s all it took. Not another word from anyone in the room. I left, came back in and no one ever voted me. Not even the hatemonger. Once the Smoothest Black Guy You Ever Heard speaks, everyone listens. I would say that all of the different players have different motivations. They don’t wanna seem too hardcore next to his cool exterior. They don’t want to sound like a little “noob”. Whatever it is, he has the innate power to end all conflicts in the room with little to no effort.

Although there are all kinds of people smoking weed while they play games, and they are damned well chill as well, for whatever reason, it’s only the SBGYEH that has this effect on online games.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Movies Where Someone Gets Run Over By A Steamroller

5. Maximum Overdrive (1986)
In a world where machines have come to life and are rampaging there is no place to hide. Not even in an open baseball field. In the scene, a kid wipes out on his bike and suddenly a steamroller (with a mind of its own) bursts through a fence and crushes him like an adolescent crepe. When I first saw this scene it confirmed a suspicion I've had for years; steamrollers hate little league.

Did he make it? Heck no. That kid's weak frame was no match for pure steamroller power. Check it out for yourself here.

4. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)
This movie cracked me up big time when I first watched it, and it still does today, because of great scenes like this one. When Austin and Miss Kensington make their escape from a research facility they use a steamroller to ride to freedom. Unfortunately a guard with no sense of self preservation gets in the way and shrieks "Noooooooooooo!" numerous times as the heroes roll slowly forward.

Did he make it? Nope. The guard (played by MadTV's Michael McDonald) was flattened despite having ample time and warning. The cherry on this gag is that Austin immediately stops the roller and gets off once the guard was killed. Check out the pancaking here.

3. The Naked Gun (1988)
The steamroller doesn't come in until the very end of this movie when the villain, Vincent Ludwig falls from a stadium and is then run over by a bus, a steamroller, and marching band. What a way to go. And even though the steamroller had to share the spotlight, it was still a great scene.

Did he make it? Uh...not a chance. As cartoonish as the Naked Gun movies can get, they know that 3rd degree steamrollings are fatal.

2. A Fish Called Wanda (1988)
What! Another comedy? Don't people understand the severity of steamroller accidents? Anyway, this movie is a great absurd comedy that reaches a strange conclusion when Ken (Michael Palin) seeks revenge against Otto (Kevin Kline) and goes after him with a steamroller. Otto laughs at the slow moving vehicle (the joke that Mike Myers later perfected) and then suddenly realizes that he's stuck in a patch of wet cement. After shooting at Ken and running out of bullets, Otto attempts to reason with him, but Ken only screams "Revenge!" as he runs him down. Let this be a lesson to anyone who eats another man's pet fish.

Did he make it? Surprisingly, yes. Instead of being turned into human flat-bread, Otto survives the ordeal and is simply pushed into the wet cement. Still, I wouldn't try it at home, kids. Not even with the supervision of Criss Angel.

1. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
Before I talk about this one, I have to mention the crazy fact that the top three movies on this list are all from 1988. I think we can definitively call '88 the year of the steamroller.

And what a good year it was. This is one of my all time favorite movies, and it's easy to see why. When Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) and Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd) face off in the Acme warehouse they end up using all manner of ridiculous weapons on each other. Eddie finds himself trapped against a barrel with a giant cartoon magnet and Doom attacks him with the only logical thing, say it with me, ... a steamroller. Long story short, the tables are turned and Doom finds himself in a sticky situation and getting slowly crushed by the steamroller. It's one of the darker scenes to be found in a family film. (Note: I couldn't find a picture from the scene, but I found a picture of that steamroller. It's the real star anyway)

Did he make it? Yes, indeed. Watch the movie to find out why, plus it's an awesome film and has the best scene of someone getting run over by a steamroller ever. As you can tell by this list, it was 80's trademark to have people getting creamed by giant mechanical rolling pins and I certainly don't see it enough nowadays. These days you're more likely to see someone get rickroll'd than steamrolled. And that's a shame.