Mask star attraction

PATRICK MALONEY -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 9:26 AM ET

Among the dozens of high-profile all-stars in Dallas this week there's a reminder of one true hero.

A military-themed goalie mask that was inspired by the sacrifice of London soldier Mark Wilson, who died last year while serving in Afghanistan, was part of the NHL's all-star celebrations yesterday morning.

The mask, bearing a Canadian military motif, and another dedicated to U.S. troops were displayed at the Dallas airport, where hockey star Ryan Miller greeted about 50 U.S. troops returning from battle.

"They became the centrepiece of the morning," said Toronto artist David Arrigo, who designed the Canadian helmet after learning of Wilson's death through friend David Sandford, a Wilson relative. "It was very, very touching."

Wilson, 39, was killed in an October roadside explosion. After hearing about that tragedy, Arrigo made his Canadian-themed mask as a tribute to all soldiers. Once NHL officials saw it, they asked him to make one honouring U.S. troops.

The masks were also displayed yesterday outside the American Airlines Center, where tonight's all-star game will be played. Arrigo hopes Miller, among the league's top goalies, will wear the U.S. mask during warmups.

The NHL says both masks are up for auction -- at auction.nhl.com -- and the money raised will benefit support groups for Canadian and U.S. soldiers.

For Arrigo, the interest shown by the NHL and its players proves the sacrifices of soldiers like Wilson aren't going unnoticed. He hopes corporate bidders show even more support during the auction.

"It was just something small that started and it's a big, huge snowball now," he said from Dallas yesterday. "Hopefully, it will go further from here."


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