Fri Sep 03 10:52am EDT
While we believe the KHL would be much cooler if all of its goaltenders wore Alexandre Dumas-inspired iron masks, the Russian league doesn't suffer from a lack of artistic achievements on its goalies' noggins.
Hot Ice, a Russian hockey site, featured the Top 20 goalie masks in the KHL, and some of them are simply awesome: No. 16 Vitaly Kolesnik (Salavat Yulayev) looks like the Crusades by way of The Matrix; No. 15 Martin Prusek (Dynamo Riga) has one that honors U2. But No. 1 on the list ... well, just look at it:
A sweet, loveable kitten on the side of Vasiliy Koshechkin's mask.
Koshechkin, currently with Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the KHL and a 2002 draft pick by the Tampa Bay Lightning, is a 6-foot-7, 231-pound man-mountain that nearly dwarfs the goal cage. So basically the last guy you'd expect would have kittens on his mask.
What's the deal with the cat fancy? Well, from the looks of things, his nickname may in fact be "The Cat," unless his mask signifies a personal achievement in spelling. But KK The Mook solves the kitten mystery via this info graphic created for yet another kitten mask he wore with the Russian junior national team:
Just so we're all clear here: He named the kitten on his mask, and believes it has feelings. Nah, goalies aren't a different breed at all, why do you ask?
(UPDATE: It's been mentioned in the comments and Dmitry confirmed that Koshechkin means "small cat" in Russian.)
Goalie masks can be intimidating, whimsical or odd windows into a goaltender's soul. Or they can look like a box of kitty litter. One of the two. Assuming he's still rocking the feline on his mask, we wish Vasiliy Koshechkin the best of luck in the 2010-11 KHL season ... until shooters figure out they can beat him cleanly by rolling a ball of yarn or a felt mouse through the crease.