It can take upwards of three months for Edmonton mask maker Tom Connauton to create a replica goalie mask.
The craftsman made his first mask in 2005, when he created a replica of retired goaltender Jim Craig’s mask. Since then, he has made more than 1,500.
“Started out, I didn’t know a thing how to do it and it was learn as you go,” Connauton said.
Connauton makes the intricately detailed pieces from scratch, typically starting with a fibreglass mould and then finishing by painting them by hand.
Connauton says he’s not satisfied with a piece unless it’s perfect.
“We don’t send anything out of here that I wouldn’t hang on the wall,” he said. “Simple as that.”
The process of perfectly replicating goalie masks from the past can be painstaking, but as a former goaltender, Connauton says his passion is connected to a long-time love of the game.
“It comes with respect for the actual legends who wore these (masks),” he said.
He has created masks for some of hockey’s biggest stars, including Sidney Crosby and Marc-Andre Fleury. Connauton’s artwork also appeared on the silver screen in Ben Affleck’s 2010 thriller, The Town.
Despite his success, Connauton says he doesn’t plan on creating a career out of mask making.
“If I was to get into this in a full-time business, I wouldn’t like it,” he said. “It has to stay as a hobby.”