Saturday, May 7, 2011
TIM THOMAS: WINNING UGLY BUT, SO FAR, NO COPY EYE-CATS
Tim Thomas is lucky the competition for the Stanley Cup is not a beauty contest.
My son made a very good observation recently about the unique looking square-caged mask worn by Boston's veteran goalie: "It's weird."
I agree. But I will take it a step further and say it is downright ugly.
But then my son, who by the way is 8, asked a logical question: "Why doesn't he wear a mask like everyone else?" The wired-cage style he was referring to is worn by just about every NHL goalie and is the "cat eye" cage, featuring circular holes around the eyes.
Here is the cat-eye style (fun fact: it's mine):
The conventional wisdom is that the cat-eye holes make it easier to see the puck than squares. The reasoning being that looking through large holes that are roughly the shape of your own eyes is optimal for vision.
But Thomas has said the reason he switched from a cat-eye to a square-eye design is because, in fact, he sees better through the squares!
InGoal magaine reported that Timmy T. visited Tony Priolo at the Sportmask factory in Oakville, Ontario, last summer and ended up trying on several designs. The one he chose for the 2010-11 season is a customized version of the square-grid cages worn by amateur goalies (amateur squares are small enough to prevent a stick blade or puck from going through them).
Tony explained: “Tim put on a number of different masks and I threw balls at him so he could decide which gave him the best vision – and this is the one we settled on.”
Now, the eye experts say that there is not definitive science to back up Thomas' claim that his eyesight is less impaired through the squares, but you can't argue against his results: He is the hottest goalie in the playoffs and is set to win this year's Vezina for the league's most outstanding goalie.
Which begs the question: Why hasn't a single goalie copied Thomas?
Most players and coaches I've spoken to say that no one is convinced that the square cage offers improved vision ... plus it is just plain U-G-L-Y.
It's a sobering reminder that goalies, though obsessed with getting an edge however they can, rarely want to do it at the expense of looking cool in their gear. I mean, Dominik Hasek had a lot of success wearing that dorkball old-school helmet and mask. But, to date, he is still the only NHL'er to don it since.