Whether it's Zach Parise's work ethic or Patrick Kane's puck skills, young players love emulating their favorite pro players. So if a young goalie has the chance to wear the same mask as world-renowned goalies such as Henrik Lundqvist, he or she will likely jump at the opportunity.
Unfortunately, certain masks could jeopardize their safety and their team. Cat eye masks, which gained popularity through their use by professional goaltenders, are illegal for youth and high school players. The masks lack certification by HECC (Hockey Equipment Certification Council) as required by USA Hockey because the larger eye openings expose young goaltenders' eyes to stick contact.
An incident during this spring’s Stanley Cup Playoffs involving Lundqvist shows just how dangerous the masks can be:
Since cat eye masks have been restricted at the youth levels, manufacturers have developed a modified cat eye mask which meets HECC standards and is approved for play. The mask is considered safe for goalies to use, but they also create confusion between which masks can be used. The chart below outlines the three most common types of goalie masks.
Coaches, parents and referees are encouraged to educate themselves on the differences between the various types of goalie masks on the market. The safest way to find a legal mask is to look for a valid HECC certification sticker on the mask and helmet.