Frank Cipra has been designing goalie masks since Bob Sauve was a Vezina Trophy winner, otherwise known as 1980.
Some have featured women, mostly with comic book-like visages and poses. Some have featured celebrities, such as his hilarious Will Ferrell as Ricky Bobby mask designed for former Los Angeles Kings goalie Jamie Storr, seen on Cipra's Web site. Some have featured political figures, such as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.
None have, until recently, featured a famous female political figure. That was until Cipra was commissioned to create a hockey goalie mask featuring Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, who in case you haven't heard is also the Republican candidate for vice president.
After referencing hockey moms in a convention speech, accepting hockey jerseys as gifts from around the U.S. and twice dropping ceremonial pucks before NHL games, the strange relationship between pucks and Palin has reached its sublime and ridiculous apex one week before election day: A wearable goaltender's mask featuring the governor on one side, and pit bull with a lip stick collar on the other.
Cipra said the mask was commissioned by Bob Naegele, former owner of the Minnesota Wild and a board member at Mission-Itech Hockey, an equipment company. Naegele was instrumental in bringing the Republican National Convention to the Xcel Energy Center in Minnesota this year.
"When Sarah made the speech about a month and a half ago, where she said 'The only difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull is lipstick,' [Naegele] jumped on it. He contacted me and said, 'Do a mask, you have free reign,'" recalled Cipra.
This put Cipra under the gun, hoping to design a mask in time for Palin to receive it before Election Day in November.
His design incorporates many aspects of the Palin mythos: The governor in her trademark glasses, smiling over an Alaska wilderness featuring the Northern Lights and the Big Dipper. And, on the other side, a wide-eyed dog chomping on a hockey stick with a lip-stick studded collar. The GOP logo is on the chin, with an American flag wrapped around the bottom of the mask. The words "McCain/Palin" adorn the side.
Cipra used magazine photos and images on the Internet to capture her likeness, saying that he strives for "photorealism" in his work.
A resident of Brockville, Ontario, Cipra said he's been following the U.S. election even if he doesn't have a pit bull in the fight. When it comes to Palin, he said the mask is as much a celebration of "Hockey Moms" than it is a tribute to the governor.
The expectation is that Palin will be given the mask at a rally in Denver this week. As Cipra told the Record & Times of Brockville:
One day he was on the phone with Kevin VanDort, the head sales representative with the Montana-based ArmorCoat.
"He (VanDort) asked me what I was working on," explained Cipra of their conversation. "I told him and he just went nuts. He said: ‘We know the governor of Montana and he knows Sarah Palin.'"
From then on, according to Cipra, it snowballed and the plan was hatched to have it presented to Palin at a rally.
"We'll just see how it goes," said Cipra, adding he's also shown it to friend Andy Nolman, president of Airborne Entertainment and an acquaintance of comedienne Tina Fey.
"If Sarah Palin doesn't want it, I can always send it to Tina Fey," said Cipra. Fey has played Palin on Saturday Night Live to much aplomb.
And if it's not Fey, then it'll be charity.
"[Palin] may want to keep it, or she can donate it to her favorite charity," he said. "If the mask was to come back to Canada, I was going to auction it off, with the proceeds either going to both breast cancer [research] and the Children's Make-A-Wish Foundation."
If she keeps it, is the mask sized for Palin, or is it large enough where she could wear it?
"Oh yeah," Cipra said. "She can wear it."
Do you think she'll put it on?
"She might ... you never know."
Do you think she can put it on with her hair up, or does she have to put it down to wear her goalie mask?
"I don't ... great question," said Cipra, through a hearty laugh. "She may put it on and unsnap the back plate. That'll definitely fit her."
If nothing else, Palin has a rather wonderful prop, should she choose to make another ceremonial puck drop at an NHL game in the next week -- or down the road.
"Maybe, you never know," said Cipra. "Maybe now she can play net for one of the teams."