Protection and expression: the goalie mask

Miska Designs, a company based in Stacy, Minn., is tasked with painting the masks for goalies on the Gophers men’s and women’s hockey teams.

by Betsy Helfand

Few positions in sports resemble the goaltender in hockey.

Aside from having rubber disks rocketed at them throughout the game, goalies also get to personalize their equipment.

Miska Designs, a company based in Stacy, Minn., is tasked with painting the masks for goalies on the Gophers men’s and women’s hockey teams. The company also designs many professional goalies’ masks.

The goalies submit personalized designs and leave them in the hands of designer Todd Miska.

A custom design ranges from $300 to $1,000.

“He does a really good job with these masks,” goaltender Ryan Coyne said of Miska. “He puts a little bit of his twist and personality into it, which makes it that much better.”

Each Gophers goalie’s mask represents his or her individuality.


Adam Wilcox

No. 32, freshman, South St. Paul, Minn.

Adam Wilcox has emerged as the Gophers men’s team’s most reliable goaltender in his first year on campus.

The South St. Paul, Minn., native has played hockey since he was 2 years old and has stood between the pipes since he was 5.

Wilcox said he liked to play in the crease as a kid. “No one else really wanted to do it on the team,” he said, “so I just kept doing it. “Eventually it just kind of stuck.”

Wilcox said the best part about being a goaltender is being able to express himself with the design of his helmet and pads.

Wilcox arrived at Minnesota via South St. Paul High School with brief stops in between with the Green Bay Gamblers and Tri-City Storm of the United States Hockey League.

He has had four masks throughout his career and calls this year’s mask the “best one by


Wilcox’s mask features Iron Man from the Marvel Comics superhero series on each side.

The rest of the mask is designed to look like metal flooring. It features a gold “M” logo on the front, on the cage and on the back plate, along with his number 32 on the tongue.


Michael Shibrowski

No. 1, junior, Andover, Minn.

Michael Shibrowski has a 1-1 record in two starts this season for the Gophers, but he’s currently sidelined with an undisclosed injury.

He traveled a long way to get to Minnesota.

Shibrowski started his career at Benilde-St. Margaret’s High School. He then played for Owatonna of the North American Hockey League, Des Moines of the USHL and Colorado College before transferring to Minnesota.

Shibrowski said he started playing goalie in first grade and fell in love with the position right away.

“You’re kind of a little different than everyone else — it’s you against them,” Shibrowski said. “It’s a team game, but kind of an individual position, too.”

Like the other goalies on the team, Shibrowski said the customized equipment is one of the perks of the position.

“Everybody makes fun of the goalies because they get big smiles when they get their new stuff,” Shibrowski said. “A really fun part about that, too, is you get to show a little bit of personality with it.”

Shibrowski said he has always kept his equipment simple. He has always stuck to mostly white pads.

“I just never had flashy stuff,” he said. “Simple, for me, kind of works.”


Ryan Coyne

No. 31, freshman, Plymouth, Minn.

Ryan Coyne stepped into the backup goalie role after Shibrowski went down with his injury.

Coyne owns career records in many categories at Maple Grove High School. He started playing hockey at age 4 and goalie when he was about 8.

“They say that goalies are a different breed,” Coyne said. “It’s just something that I really enjoy doing. I like the pressure, and I like having a good sense of control over games.”

Coyne said you can tell a lot about a goaltender’s personality by looking at his equipment.

“Every goalie has got their different kind of style,” Coyne said. “If you’re really more conservative and laid back, you might use more neutral colors.”

Coyne said it was important for him to have white bars in the cage of his mask because it blends in with the ice and makes seeing the puck easier.

Coyne’s mask has a diagonal gold stripe running down each side with the word “Minnesota” on one side and “Gophers” on the other.

Above the words on each side, he has two different school logos that appear to be breaking out of the mask. On one side is the traditional “M” logo. On the other is the vintage skating gopher logo.


Noora Räty

No. 41, senior, Espoo, Finland

Starting Gophers women’s goaltender Noora Räty has no shortage of reminders of her home country on her mask.

Räty has been a member of the Finnish national team since age 15. She has represented her country twice in the Olympics, winning a bronze medal in 2010.

Her mask pays homage to her current team but also features a Finnish flag, quote, phrase and logo.

She said her favorite part of the mask is either the lion on the back because it reminds her of home or the phrase “sisu.”

She translated “sisu” to “guts” and said Finland’s soccer team uses the saying.

She also has a Finnish quote on the back of her helmet, which Räty said is one of her favorites. She said the phrase means to “keep going forward no matter what happens.”

“It’s just what I’ve used for many years — whatever happens to me, I just keep going forward,” Räty said. “You can’t change the past.”

Her current helmet is her third in four years at Minnesota.

“I decided to keep my last year’s [helmet] since we won the national championship,” she said.


Amanda Leveille

No. 29, freshman, Kingston, Ontario, Canada

Amanda Leveille’s mask is the most detailed of the three women’s goalies.

Like her teammate Räty, Leveille’s helmet has a reminder of home. On the back plate, she has both a Canadian and an American flag.

The front features a detailed map of Ontario and an airplane because of the distance between her hometown and the University of Minnesota.

“I wanted to have a plane flying down to Minnesota because I have to take a plane down to get here,” she said.

Leveille came to the Gophers after playing at Frontenac Secondary School in Ontario.

Below the map is an illustration of Goldy standing like Hall of Fame goaltender Ken Dryden. She said it is her favorite part of the mask.

On the other side is the Minneapolis skyline. She said she thought it would be cool to have the gold fade into the maroon like the sunset.

On the back, there is a nod to her favorite Bible verse, Jeremiah 29:11.

There is also a purple heart, with the letters “D.I.F.D,” which honors the sister of a former teammate, who committed suicide.

Leveille paper mâchéd over an old mask to create a 3-D model of the mask she wanted. Then she started painting.

She took a week to create the model, and she said the helmet turned out perfect — even better than she designed.


Shyler Sletta

No. 31, sophomore, Elko New Market, Minn. 

Shyler Sletta said she originally wanted to be a graphic design major.

The major didn’t work out with her schedule, but the helmet still reflects her style.

“I’ve got a really graphic design-ish kind of style, and so that obviously fits this mask pretty well,” she said.

She learned how to use online photo editors in high school and used those skills to be precise with what she wanted.

Sletta played at New Prague High School, where she was a three-time all-conference honoree, before joining the Gophers last season.

The mask is simple, but Sletta said she wanted to “grab people’s attention.”

“My number is on the chin in gold. That way it pops out really good,” she said.

She put maroon in between pearl white and gold because she thought it would split up the helmet well.

She said she thinks the helmet’s simplicity is unique with its focal points and “pops” of color.

“Not a lot of people go for that. They go for really complicated helmets,” Sletta said.