Like many National Hockey League goaltenders, Jason LaBarbera of the Phoenix Coyotes was in the market for a new mask design for the upcoming season. Previously, he had worn inventive color schemes that honored disparate muses like Metallica and pro wrestling. This year, he came to artist David Arrigo with a much different kind of inspiration:
LaBarbera wanted a mask that honored both the U.S. and Canadian Armed Forces serving overseas. More specifically, he wanted one side of the mask to honor the late Pat Tillman; the defensive back for the Arizona Cardinals who left the NFL to enlist in the U.S. Army with his brother after 9/11, and who was killed by friendly fire on April 22, 2004 in Afghanistan.
The mask depicts Tillman and his brother in military gear, along with an image of Pat Tillman as a member of the Cardinals, who like LaBarbera's Coyotes play in Glendale.
"I had read a book about Tillman prior to the request and had taken great interest in the story," said Arrigo, whose goalie mask creations are found on his official website.
Tillman's death in action was a controversial one, as the Army covered up the details of his shooting. That led to a congressional inquiry about it, and eventually an award-winning documentary called "The Tillman Story" that examined the scandal.
"With all circumstances leading up to the passing of Pat Tillman aside, I felt that he put a face to the everyday soldier," said Arrigo.
The opposite side of the mask features a single, faceless solider with helicopters above his head. Throughout the mask is a red-and-sand-colored camouflage that matches the Coyotes' team colors.
Part of the design: Multiples stars and maple leafs that serve as a tribute to "both Canadian and American forces serving in their respective theaters," said Arrigo.
On the front of the mask is a yellow ribbon, an acknowledgement that those serving overseas are in the thoughts of those back home.
This isn't the first time Tillman's been honored by the Coyotes. In 2004, forward Mike Ricci changed his sweater number to No. 40 in honor of Tillman. In 2007, Coyotes captain Shane Doan and his wife received the Pat Tillman Community Leadership Award.
Arrigo said the mask was a perfect way to honor Tillman and the rest of the men and women still serving around the world.
"Personally, whether or not you agree with the actions overseas, I feel we need to support, to no end, our brave forces," he said.
For information about the Pat Tillman Foundation, visit its official site. Visit Arrigo on Facebook for more goalie designs.
Other popular stories on Yahoo! Sports:
• 20 bold predictions for the NHL season
• 'Sweetness' excerpt does NFL legend Walter Payton an injustice
• Unknown world-class boxer may be on course to fight Manny Pacquiao