Ethan Anders still has trouble wrapping his head around the history of it all but is beginning to understand the significance.
The Rebels 18-year-old netminder skated onto the ice last Friday at the Centrium, with a painted mask, to a lot of unexpected fanfare.
He was the first Red Deer Rebels goalie in the Brent Sutter era to have a painted mask. Not even first-round NHL draft pick Cam Ward, James Reimer or Darcy Kuemper were bestowed that honour.
“This is the first painted helmet, it’s pretty cool,” Anders said.
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Anders said he was sat down by the Rebels coaching staff, including Sutter and long-time Rebels equipment manager Dave “Radar” Horning and then, was allowed to pick from a few different designs.
“I was doing a video with Kraymer (Barnstable) and Radar told me to come in the office, I thought I was in trouble for something,” Anders recalled.
“Brent looked at me and showed me the Ipad with the painted helmet on it. He just said we are going to do painted helmets this year.”
While he’s never had a painted mask in his hockey career, Anders said he always admired the designs of former Calgary Flames netminder Mika Kiprusoff.
“I was a big gear guy but this is my first painted mask. I was as excited about this as you guys,” Anders told the assembled media.
“I was a big Flames fan, so I liked Kiprusoff, that was probably the main one, the guy I watched the most for sure.”
Since first wearing the new mask, Anders has a win and a shootout loss, while stopping 79 of 86 shots he’s faced. He currently sits second in the WHL with 15 wins, eighth in save percentage at .916 and 15th in goals against average with a 3.13.
His coach had some simple advice about the new mask.
“He said there’s no more excuses to play bad with this helmet,” Anders added with a chuckle.
The Rebels host the Regina Pats Friday and then welcome the Swift Current Broncos to town on Saturday.