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Is this the strangest <br>mask in hockey?</br> Add to ...

From time to time I'll post a little more quirky items on this blog, based on things I see at the rink. Today, a look at the mask of Leafs prospect Jussi Rynnas, the 6-foot-5 Finn who'll play his first season in North America this year with the Marlies.

I brought my camera to the practice rink this weekend to get a few shots of his mask as I hadn't seen any online anywhere and had heard it was pretty unique. Near the end of the skate, I noticed that Christian Hanson and Rynnas were at centre ice and appeared to be chatting about the mask.

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I asked Hanson what they were chatting about.

"I said what do you wear on it? He said his agent and his buddy," Hanson said in disbelief. "I asked him why and he said it's just kind of a joke. I saw the Leaf [logo] so I was thinking maybe it was famous goalies or something like that. The one looked like Macaulay Culkin!"

Rynnas let me take a few pictures of the mask and told me a little bit about what they meant. His English is still a work in progress, but after the pictures is a general idea of what he said.

At left there is his agent, Allain Roy, and on the chin is Rynnas's former teammate, Tuomas Huhtanen.

I had chatted with Roy about Rynnas at the rookie tournament a couple weeks ago and sent him an e-mail about the mask when I heard about it. He sent me back only one line: "I couldn't believe he really did that!"

Here's the other side of the mask, which is just as strange, and the backplate:

These two go together. Rynnas has the name of a rock band, Yö, from his hometown on the back of his mask. The bear with a crown emblem is the coat of arms for his city, Pori, and at left is a Finnish flag. Up above is an inscription of a Finnish saying, which Rynnas said basically translates to "good luck on your journey."

The man and woman holding hands on a bridge, meanwhile, is from one of Yö's songs, and there are lyrics across the top of it.

"It's hard to translate," Rynnas said. "I have always wanted to put on my mask pictures that are important to me or some lyrics that are important to me. When we have a game, between periods, I look at my mask, I read lyrics."

I believe he was saying it helps calm him down to look at his mask and see familiar words and pictures, but as I said, his English is still coming along.

He added that his Finnish agent suggested putting Roy on the mask as a joke, and they had a good laugh about it. "We thought it was pretty funny," he said, hoping I had picked up on the joke.

I also talked with Jonas Gustavsson about his mask, which he said he is about to replace before the season starts. Swedish artist David Gunnarsson, who has done all of his recent ones, is working on the new one now.

"I love his work," Gustavsson said. "It's really good so I let him paint all my masks. I always just give him a free hand to do whatever he wants. I'm always happy with the results, too."

He said he replaces his mask every season, and this year he's switching to a Reebok one. Here's the one he played with last season and is currently using in training camp. (Gustavsson said the new design will be the same on both sides and incorporate the "Monster Leaf" that's at the top of this one.)

 

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