15-year-old fan wins contest to design the art on Minnesota Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom's mask

backstrommaskold.jpg(Niklas Backstrom in his old, less charming goalie mask)

I’ve seen goalies allow fans to design their masks before, but I only recall Calder-winner-turned-backup Andrew Raycroft doing so. The fans who submitted their artwork for Minnesota Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom’s mask will likely see their labor of love a lot more often, as the Finnish goalie played 60, 71, 58 and 41 games in the last four seasons.

Backstrom chose a design by 15-year-old Peter Best of Plymouth, Minnesota. Here’s a shot of the artwork via the Wild Web Site. (Click to enlarge)


While the original work is impressively detailed, an artist will take its inspiration and make something a little fancier out of it. Here’s more information about the process from the Wild.

After days of wrestling with his very difficult decision, Backstrom went with Best’s very detailed design. The mask shows the skylines of St. Paul on one side, and Minneapolis on the other, covered by the Wild’s crest at the top. Wolves adorn each side, and the back features the Finnish flag, as well as the Wild’s 10th anniversary mark.

Best will now be invited to the studio of mask designer Todd Miska, who will take the design concept and tailor it to meet Backstrom’s specifications. He will also have the opportunity to present the finished product to Backstrom in person at the Wild’s training camp in September.

Best’s work beat out four other finalists to win the honor (I prefer Kelsey Bolden’s “Logo Mask” and the Paul Bunyan one is adorable in a children’s art kind of way, but that’s just my opinion).

You have to love when teams allow fans to get so involved, especially considering the fact that they’ll be able to look at their work on such a regular basis (barring injury and poor play, of course). Minnesota features one of the most devoted fan bases in the NHL, as they pack the building even when the team is decidedly mediocre. Good on Backstrom and the Wild for running the contest and congrats to Best for earning his 15 seconds (or 50-70 games) of fame.

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    Friday’s loss serves as ‘harsh lesson’ for Blue Jackets

    Jasper Fast, Nick Foligno, Henrik Lundqvist
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    Late in the third period of Friday’s game against the New York Rangers, things were looking good for Columbus.

    Brandon Saad, who the team acquired from Chicago this off-season, scored his first goal of the season to give his team a 2-1 lead with under four minutes remaining in the contest.

    Unfortunately for the Jackets, that’s as good as it would get.

    The Rangers responded with three unanswered goals from Oscar Lindberg, Kevin Hayes and Mats Zuccarello to spoil Columbus’ home opener.

    “When something like that happens at the end, I think we’re gonna be a better team because of it,” defenseman Ryan Murray told reporters after the game. “It’s a harsh lesson, but it’s a good one.

    Luckily for Columbus, they won’t have to wait very long to try and get their revenge.

    The Blue Jackets and Rangers will finish off their home-and-home series at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night, which might not be such a bad thing for Columbus.

    “It’s good that we get another chance tomorrow,” Saad said after Friday’s game. “We were high on emotions (after the go-ahead goal) and they scored and it took the wind out of our sails, but we have to keep playing. We have to learn to keep doing our thing, regardless of the score.”



    Kings GM says Mike Richards went into ‘a destructive spiral’

    Mike Richards

    The Los Angeles Kings may owe Mike Richards money until 2031 (seriously), but in settling his grievance, the team and player more or less get to turn the page.

    Not before Kings GM Dean Lombardi shares his sometimes startling perspective, though.

    Lombardi has a tendency to be candid, especially in the press release-heavy world of sports management. Even by his standards, his account of Richards’ “destructive sprial” is a staggering read from the Los Angeles Times’ Lisa Dillman.

    “Without a doubt, the realization of what happened to Mike Richards is the most traumatic episode of my career,” Lombardi said in a written summation he provided to the Los Angeles Times. “At times, I think that I will never recover from it. It is difficult to trust anyone right now – and you begin to question whether you can trust your own judgment. The only thing I can think of that would be worse would be suspecting your wife of cheating on you for five years and then finding out in fact it was true.”

    Lombardi provides plenty of eyebrow-raising statements to Dillman, including:

    • He believed he “found his own Derek Jeter” in Richards, a player who “at one time symbolized everything that was special about the sport.”
    • Lombardi remarked that “his production dropped 50 percent and the certain ‘it’ factor he had was vaporizing in front of me daily.”
    • The Kings GM believes that he was “played” by Richards.

    … Yeah.

    Again, it’s a powerful read that you should soak in yourself, even if you’re unhappy with the way the Kings handled the situation.

    Maybe the most pressing of many lingering questions is: will we get to hear Richards’ side of the story?