Well, this gives new meaning to the man behind the mask. Swedish goalie Mantas Armalis, a recent grad of the country's under-20 junior league, is not only about trying to steal goals, but giving his best 'Blue Steel.'
One might presume there is very little overlap between the hockey world and the fashion world, unless someone trying to order coffee in Italian says machismo instead of macchiato. But it turns out there is. Armalis, a young 20-year-old goalie who has played for Mora in Sweden's second-tier pro league over the last few years and also represented his parents' native Lithuania in international competition, ended up falling into male modelling. He's worked for Versace in both Milan and Paris, which are the meccas of the fashion world.
As Swedish hockey blogger extraordinaire Uffe Bodin (@UffeBodin) describes, Armalis took a job in a clothing store to support himself and his hockey ambition after he completed high school in 2011. A retailer thought the tall blond goaltender had the bona fides to do a little turn on the catwalk and by January 2012, he was working for one of the world's biggest fashion houses.
The remarkable part, as Bodin related, is that Armalis is grounded about it. Perhaps that's where the you're-only-as-good-as-your-last-game goalie mentality comes in handy. Armalis notes he could make more money modelling than as as a minor-league goalie in Sweden, but the former can be very fickle.
At this stage, it is much more money involved, yes. But like I said that was not a long-lasting career. One day you are sought after and the next day your look is completely out. I slipped on a banana peel .. the fashion thing is not worth as much as hockey is to me. (HockeySverige.se)
One cross-over is that Armalis' training as an aspiring professional goalie has made him an outlier for the fashionistas. Apparently, Versace desires more "athletic models," so the core strength he built up in his legs and upper body is an asset.
Armalis actually met his Swedish NHL idol, New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist, after one of his shows. While he can walk down a runway in front of dozens of judging eyes, he got "starstruck" by the sight of his hockey hero.
Young goaltenders in Finland and Sweden tend to stay on the vine, so to speak, longer than their Canadian counterparts who can only play junior hockey up until their 21st birthday. The refreshing part of Mantus Armalis' story is that, presently, he's determined to keep playing hockey on his terms, where he is a goalie who also happens to be really, really ridiculously good-looking, according to the people who make these decisions. Former NHL player Sean Avery was often made sport of for having interests that didn't align with the rigid stereotype of a male pro athlete, but Armalis is saying this is who he is.
From Bodin, one last time:
Maybe there are some people who are quick to judge, people who do not believe that you're serious [about hockey] if you do not stay within the limits of what they believe to be right. At the same time, I have had very good support, which has been a huge relief. People around me understand what I am doing 100% and supported me, so it has not been a problem.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.