Antti Niemi joined his third team this season when he was picked up on waivers by the Montreal Canadiens earlier this week. He started the year with the Pittsburgh Penguins, but after three weeks and three bad games was put on waivers and claimed by the Florida Panthers. Three weeks and two bad games later, Niemi was again put on waivers and was picked up by the Habs, whose top two goaltenders are currently injured.
So short was Niemi’s stay in Florida that he didn’t eve have a chance to customize his goalie mask. Instead, he just wore a plain white mask — the mask that simultaneously states “I’m new around here,” and “I won’t be here long.”
Niemi needs to own that mask.
Seriously. And by own I mean embrace it and make it his trademark, because let’s face it: his days in Montreal are already numbered. Once starter Carey Price or backup Al Montoya returns to the lineup, Niemi is expendable. So, it is highly unlikely that Niemi is going to get himself a Canadiens-themed mask; just like I wouldn’t repaint the bedroom of an apartment I was staying in for three weeks.
But there’s nothing wrong with an all-white goalie mask. Alain Cheverier rocked the all-white mask when he bounced around the league in the late 1980s and early 1990s, from New Jersey to Winnipeg to Chicago to Pittsburgh to Detroit. That was his look, even when he had a bit of stability with the Devils and later the Blackhawks.
Plus, goalie masks now have artwork that is so visually overwhelming, and so high-concept , with every small detail having an elaborate backstory, that none of them really stand out anymore. The only mask I can recall from the last 10 years is Jonas Hiller’s matte-black getup when he played on the Anaheim Ducks. I remember it well because it was sublime in it simplicity.
A fourth team is all but a given for Niemi this season. So is another goaltender, sometime, somewhere, going down with an injury. Niemi should crib the Chrevrier look and make it his own; skip the temptations of adding a little color or a team sticker; keep it white. White matches everything.
The white mask might say “I won’t be here long,” but it can also say “I’m not here to look good; I’m just here to do a job.” That should be the statement that Niemi makes this season. ■
Follow Sal Barry on Twitter @PuckJunk.