The Goalie Mask, Reenvisioned

The goalie mask, at least the retro-styled fiberglass types from the 60s and 70s, hasn’t been used in hockey for about 50 years —  it’s instead made many more appearances in horror movies than on ice rinks. Since then, though, there’s been very little innovation surrounding the goalie mask even though there’s much more modern technology that could theoretically give them even greater visibility. [Surjan Singh] is hoping to use his engineering and hockey backgrounds to finally drive some improvements.

The “uncage” is based on Dyneema thread, a polyethylene fiber known for its strength and durability. It’s often used in applications that demand high strength with minimal weight, such as for sails or backpacking equipment. Using strands of Dyneema woven through a metal support structure is what gives this mask its high strength while also improving the visibility through it dramatically. [Surjan] has been prototyping this design extensively, as there were some issues with the fibers chafing on attachment points on the metal frame, but most of these issues have been ironed out or are being worked on currently.

In the meantime, [Surjan] has been looking for a professional-level goalie to help refine his design further and does seem to have some interest, but it doesn’t seem to have progressed past testing in the more controlled test environments yet. It’s not too far-fetched to imagine this as the future of goalie masks in professional hockey though since some innovation after 50 years of relative stagnation seems to be due. For something more accessible to those of us not currently playing in the NHL, though, you can wheel, snipe, and celly on this air hockey table instead.

12 thoughts on “The Goalie Mask, Reenvisioned

  1. This plays like a pitch on an episode of Shark Tank.
    Visibility is not a problem that needs to be solved. batting helmets (for baseball), lacrosse helmets, American football and everything else has used the bars forever and it’s darn near perfect.
    Steel bars (or whatever they are currently made of) are indestructible, easy to see if/when there is a failure or pending failure.
    Any fiber based grill is going to wear or get brittle or do any number of things.
    If you want something without bars use a Lexan shield, the kind that already exits.
    Sorry to be a downer and good luck but this is a solution without a problem.

    1. Sorry, but I have to respectfully disagree. Outside of goalies all juniors wear ‘cages’ (at least in Europe, and I think up to U23 in America too?). There’s a whole cred issue around wearing a cage and anything that makes it less visible and less intrusive is more likely to encourage kids to keep wearing them post U18 which is when they stop being mandatory in our system. This will result in hugely reduced insurance premiums for the sport cos a huge proportion of the claims is for dental work.

      Catastrophic failure is easy enough to mitigate against. That’s what engineers do with redundancy, over specification and material quality. Current plastic full face shields for juniors mist up, and also have a cred-barrier.

      In short, work on making this as non-intrusive as possible (e.g. work on removing or minimising the lower bar) and you should find a ready market, _IF_ you can overcome the ‘its not a visor, why would I want it?’ issue….Ice Hockey players, like many sportsfolks, do not like change – that’ll be the uphill bit.

      1. Cages for players are an entirely different issue than goalie cages. Players must wear a full cage through all youth hockey, then things get muddy after college level. Every beer league has a few tough guys that wanna show just how manly they are, but they tend to be few and far between. At some point USA hockey will mandate visors and eventually cages.

        USA Hockey has stipulations on what are called “cats eye” goalie cages in youth hockey, Those loop down a bit giving the goalie a far less obstructed view. The downside is that a rising shot at just the right angle can lift the helmet and allow the puck to contact the goalie’s face, but it takes a very specific angle for a puck to sneak through.

        Clear shields likely won’t see use for goalies. The helmets are contoured to deflect impact away, and such sharp curves would cause serious visual distortions. Plus, goalies tend to be mouth breathers and the combination of hot, damp breath with cold, dry, ice rink air in a super enclosed helmet with little airflow means you’re going to see fogging issues. The latest CCM full face shield does a nice job of preventing this, and skaters get more air volume moving through the shield to reduce condensation since they, you know, skate, but goalies don’t get that luxury.

        Plus, stopping hard in front of a goalie who just made a save (aka “snowing the goalie”) is a time honored tradition among agitating players.

      2. Absolutely correct! Unless you play goalie you have no idea how much the bars impede vision. You learn to look around them. I’m imagining not having to do that. As player sticks become more technologically advanced it is getting more and more difficult to read shot releases. I guarantee having a string instead of a bar would help goalies and players immensely. There is a reason NHL players don’t wear cages. If it didn’t make a difference they would all be wearing masks and goalies wouldn’t play around with cage styles like they do.

    2. I’m all for any changes that make stupid macho people get less stupid macho people injuries resulting in their stupid macho arses ending up in my OR, wasting healthcare dollars and effort that could be spent helping other, non-stupid-macho people.

  2. as a goalie, i would LOVE to have this. i learned how to see past the cage and planned on buying the ‘eyelet’ style cage for better vision(never did after an nhl goalie took a stick tip to the eye through the eyelet).
    would never use a lexan shield as any fogging during play would hinder performance – it also acts as a heat shield, helping contain body heat and making breathing cold air harder to ‘find’.
    steel bars are not indestructible and many goalies are taught to replace the cage if an impact point is found.
    Ian Clarke would be a great trainer to try and get a hold of, might be able to through his GDI camps.

      1. As an ex-competetive fencer I remember seeing those for a brief while, never at club level only on at international level (not in person I wasn’t that good haha) then, yeah, gone.
        Ironically I’ve never once heard a fencer complain about poor visibility. And compared to a hockey goalie mask, a fencing mask is basically a black hood.

  3. There would have to be a policy of inspecting the cord after every hit to check for any nick, cuts, fraying etc. Doesn’t matter if 1,000 of them were each tested to withstand 1,000 puck hits.

    There will be a mean time between failure, but that just means it *can* fail. It might be 1,500 hits or it could be the second one.

    If you want it to have thinner bars for maximum visibility, 3D laser sintered titanium would be ideal. Put it on silicone shock mounts and it shouldn’t ever break, while damping the force transferred to the goalie’s head.

    Adam Savage had a suit of Iron Man armor 3D printed in titanium and it was able to shrug off 9mm bullets fired from a pistol. A hockey puck should be easy to deflect by a face cage.

    With the NHL’s $$$$$ they could have customized cages for every goalie so the bars would be perfectly positioned for his sight lines while maintaining close enough spacing and strength.

  4. Hockey is played on astroturf or grass. The sport being referred to here is called ice hockey.
    That being said, ice hockey helmets started being used by hockey goalies in the eighties.

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