A goalie's mask isn't just for protection. When it's painted, the mask is an extension of the puckstopper's personality.
Calgary Hitmen 'tender Justin Pogge's new lid is a perfect example, not for what's on the front but what's on the back -- MF7. The two letters and number are tribute to Pogge's former teammate with the Prince George Cougars, Michael Fogolin, a 17-year-old defenceman and son of two-time Stanley Cup winner Lee Fogolin, who died in his sleep May 26, 2004.
He wore No. 7.
Pogge said he'll always remember Fogolin.
"I put it on my helmet just to let me know that you've got to play with heart and he always played with heart and you've always got to play your game," said Pogge, 18, who got the mask prior to Friday's 3-2 win over his former team.
In fact, both Pogge and Hitmen backup Daniel Spence got new paint jobs on their masks, which were crafted by Cross-Eyed Airbrushing.
Pogge's flaming mask is riddled with bullet holes and bullet casings against a black background. At the bottom, a gold necklace is depicted with his No. 1 dangling down. On top is the phantom from the Hitmen logo unleashing a torrent of bullets from a sub-machine gun.
Spence's mask sports a similar theme, with an Al Capone character in a pinstripe suit staring down the barrel of a Tommy gun.
Spence told the artists to do whatever they wanted as long as it had an "in-your-face" theme.
"They did a good job and I'm really happy with it," said Spence, who like Pogge, didn't don the mask at practice yesterday in an effort to keep it shiny and new for as long as possible.
And the Hitmen are more than happy with Pogge's play since he came to Calgary at the WHL trade deadline.
The Toronto Maple Leafs draft pick has started all nine games, going 7-2 with a 2.16 goals-against average, .915 save percentage and one shutout.
Pogge said he loves all the minutes he's getting.
"I played pretty good in Prince George but I never really got onto a roll. Now I've started every game and the team's playing for me and I'm playing for the team and it's just working great right now," said Pogge, who hails from Kaleden, B.C.
"I love playing and it beats sitting on the bench any day."
He noted the game's a little more offence-oriented in the Central Division compared to the B.C. Division, where the Cougars play most of their games.
"It's a lot different. It's a lot more of a wide-open game here and there's a lot of fast guys and good players," Pogge said.
The Leafs selected the 6-ft. 3-in. goalie in last year's draft, taking him in the third round but they had a little trouble tracking down their prospect.
"I went to work, pumping gas at yacht club in Summerland and I heard from my agent but after the Leafs were kind of wondering where I was because they couldn't get a hold of me," said Pogge.
Hitmen GM/head coach Kelly Kisio said he is happy he got hold of the talented netminder after sending goalie Scott Bowles, d-man Andy Rogers and forward Lee Zalasky to PG in exchange for Pogge, blueliner Dylan Yeo and forward Tyrel Lucas.
"He's been real good and the only question with him was preparing himself every day," Kisio said of Pogge. "We'll stay on him and make sure he's prepared."