What if the fashion police did an award show for professional sports? Which group of athletes would be most decorated by the end of the event? There is only one clear answer. Hockey netminders would dominate the show. Bold, personal statements of art shining in arena lights cannot compare to other drab athletes. Yes, the vintage Cleveland Indians outfits maybe classically cool, but it is discount store quality next to the glitz of CamWard’s head gear under RBC Center lights.
EYECANDYAIR is the Versace of goalie fashion and they have the dressed some the best athletes in the league. Tim Thomas, Cam Ward, and Jonathan Quick are just a few of their clients. I had the pleasure of interviewing artist and owner, Steve Nash. Mr. Nash gave me a fascinating insight into goalie masks…
KP Kelly: You have crafted mask art for a few Carolina goalies (Cam Ward, Michael Murphy, Manny Legace, and Michael Leighton) over the years, so how did you get involved in Carolina hockey?
Steve Nash: My first guy with Carolina was Cam Ward. I met Cam through a mutual friend. We have been down to Raleigh once, and it blew my mind. Best tailgating atmosphere I have ever been to. Up here in Canada, everyone is hockey crazy, but not as much hospitality as there was down there. You guys are the loudest arena I have been in and I’ve been in at least a dozen different arenas. The Canes barn is the loudest! The most fun too. It blew me anyway when I was down there.
KK: that is so great to hear! I am smiling from ear to ear. You guys will have to come back down soon.
SN: For sure, we will.
KK: Is there extra bling in Cam’s mask this year?
SN: Oh yeah, Cam loves the bling. He’s got all kinds of effects tripp’in out inside that thing. Cam loves silver. He isn’t like a showoff guy, he just loves the color silver and the bling. The really personal part is his backplate. He likes to pay tribute to his Grandpa and his wife, and baby, Nolan. Down to earth, really cool guy.
KK: How do you normally recruit new clients?
SN: A lot of the time it is word of mouth through the players.
KK: Who was your first NHL client?
SN: Tim Thomas was my first client in the NHL about 5-6 years ago. It is an odd mask to paint on. It is a different type of mask called Mage and it’s made by Sportmask. He and owner Tony Priolo worked hard over the years to perfect it.
KK: Yeah, it was fun to watch them go head to head on Wednesday night.
SN: Cam is scary to play against. That toe save? I don’t know how he sees that. (We continued to ooze kudos all over Cam for 10 minutes.)
KK: Tell us about how Blackbeard was born on Ward’s mask.
SN: Cam and I went back and forth a lot and wanted to pull apiece from Carolina that hadn’t been done before. Blackbeard was a well known character, so we said let’s run with Blackbeard and make it fun. Cam is a fun guy, and he wanted to play into something that was fun. Nothing too serious.
KK: So before you where painting Conn Smythe and Vezina Trophy winner masks, what were you doing? How did you get into goalie art?
SN: I have always been into art and I just started to apply art onto goalie masks. Goalies love their art on the mask just like bikers love their art on the bikes. I just ran with it, it wasn’t planned. It was a good, a lucky decision.
KK: How much involvement does the goalie have as far as the design? Is it a collaborative effort?
SN: Some goalies really get involved in their masks to the point where they pretty much map the whole mask out. Then there are other goalies that say these are my ideas and put your artist spin on it. Cam likes to be involved, he likes to get into it. Mike Murphy, he pretty much had the ideas for his mask this year.
KK: What did you think about Murph’s tribute to Bug?
SN: I thought it was awesome. Anytime someone tributes anyone, I think it is awesome. It just shows how passion that person is. That is the fun thing about goalies and their masks. It’s sorta like the last refuge in professional sports where you can doyour own thing. It’s not like bombarded with advertisements. Cars have sponsorships all over them; you don’t get anything personal from the driver. Baseball is boring, like a straight up suit. Goalies still have that personal escape. So, it makes it fun for the fans, media, and such.
KK: I love the stripes down the front of Murph’s mask. Was that your idea or Mike’s?
SN: That was a request by him. He really wanted a stripe down the center. It turned out really nice. It’s bold and we kept all the other colors subtle so that red would pop out nice. Then we just layered up the logo on the sides so it’s like a pack of bears coming at ya.
KK: Have you ever disagreed with someone’s idea? How do you deal with that?
SN: I did refuse to paint one, and it was from a male stripper that came into my studio. He came in and brought a calendar of himself. He wanted his portrait on the sides of the mask. I obviously refused to do that. In 12 years, that is the only one I refused. (Laughter and thoughts of a Skinner mask consume the conversation for a couple minutes.)
KK: Has there been a time when you thought, “Man, I wish I had a chance to do that mask?”
SN: I have a real passion for the masks from the old times, like the 70’s. When the mask covered your whole face, like the Jason masks. I love those old school masks. Just weird and freaky looking to begin with.
KK: Do you have other artists working for you?
SN: No. Just myself and my wife Steph, like a mom and pop type business. I just do a few guys in the NHL. I like to keep it that way so I can cater to those guys and do a good job.
KK: Who had the most challenging piece going into this season?
KK: How long did it take to complete?
SN: Start to finish is usually one week. (My jaw falls to the fall at this point. It takes me a week to do a load of laundry, let alone an amazing piece of artwork. Unreal.)
KK: So if Mason was the challenging one, who was the most fun?
SN: Cam’s was the most fun. I always love painting Cam’s because it’s really fun to paint. I can get a little silly with his Blackbeard and the diamond flake in there.
KK: Is that what makes it so sparkly?
SN: Yeah. It’s for the fans and up close. It’s not for the TV or photography, none of that will pick it up.
KK: No Cardiac Cane interview is complete without discussing Jeff Skinner. What do you think about our Rookie of the Year?
SN: So lucky you got that little speed demon. I never knew someone could skate that well at that size with that strength.
What is not to love about EYECANDYAIR? Breathtaking, one-of-a-kind artwork made by Canadians who love Carolina hockey…doesn’t get any better than that y’all! Nash also crafted head gear for Martin Biron, Nolan Schaefer, and Tobias Stephan this year. To keep informed of all future goalie art happenings, follow EYECANDYAIR on Twitter, Facebook, and on their website. Click the below links to enjoy some more great EYECANDYAIR pictures.
Thank you Steph and Steve for chatting with Cardiac Cane. Cheers to a blessed season and Let’s Go Canes! Let’s Go Checkers!