Puck Daddy - NHL

Our buddies at Fourth Place Medal (where we'll be contributing during the Vancouver Games) published the U.S. Olympic goalie mask for Ryan Miller(notes) of the Buffalo Sabres yesterday, and it's fantastic ... even if Uncle Sam suddenly looks like Raiden from "Mortal Kombat" after an HGH bender.

From the Times Herald, and the creator of the mask Ray Bishop:

The Buffalo Sabres star came to Bishop with a design idea for the Olympics that included a caricature of Uncle Sam rolling up his sleeves. Bishop made it come to life with splashes of the Olympic logo, patriotic sayings and vibrant colors.

"We talk quite a bit -- (Miller is) really good with ideas," said Bishop, who works out of his home in Grand Blanc. "Ryan will sketch stuff up even. He's not a bad artist himself."

Somehow, we don't see Tim Thomas(notes) as being the same kind of renaissance man. More like a "here's a cocktail napkin with what I was thinkin'" sort of guy.

On the right, via Fear The Fin, is the mask for Evgeni Nabokov(notes) of the San Jose Sharks, who will be backstopping Team Russia. The site offered an interesting breakdown of what the colors and symbols mean for a Russian, with a mild thumbs-up for the look:

I almost feel that Nabby took too conservative of an approach, because this imagery doesn't have a lot of his personality on it and is very predictable.

If you've seen any of the other Olympic lids, pass'em along on email and we'll link them up. For context, here was Martin Brodeur's(notes) mask in Torino 2006, which still doesn't do much for us, especially with the "R.I.P. Tupac" tattoo-like font on the chin.

Will the Americans or the Canadians have the better-looking masks in Vancouver? Better question: In there a reason why the single most patriotic goalie mask in the history of hockey isn't being worn by a U.S. goalie in chasing the gold? You betcha!

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