Coyotes goaltender puts WWE on ice … and on his mask
Some WWE Universe members wear their fandom on their sleeve.
Phoenix Coyotes goaltender Jason LaBarbera wears his on his mask.
"I was a huge wrestling fan growing up," LaBarbera recalled. "When I was a kid, I was never allowed to get the pay-per-views. I'd always go to someone else's house. I couldn't wait for Saturdays and (Superstars of Wrestling) ... It was always part of me growing up."
So when the NHL goaltender heard that WWE was bringing their premier event, WrestleMania XXVI, to the Phoenix area, the Buranby, British Columbia, native jumped at the opportunity to commemorate the event at University of Phoenix Stadium with a specially-designed mask (PHOTOS).
LaBarbera, who previously played for the Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings, has tried to include WWE elements in his mask designs, as well as imagery from his favorite band, Metallica.
"The one fun thing about being a goalie is getting to create a mask, and to add things on it that are part of your personality, and things that you like," LaBarbera explained. "WrestleMania was here in Phoenix, so I thought it would be cool to put the two marquis matches and the guys involved on my helmet."
The mask, designed by Toronto-area artist David Arrigo (Artist's Site), features two of WrestleMania's top matches - The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels, and Bret "Hit Man" Hart vs. Mr. McMahon. It also has Hart's heart and skull logo on the chin, with a howling coyote on the forehead.
According to LaBarbera, the average custom mask takes about one to two weeks to design from concept to finish. It's not a cheap process either, costing about $1,000 for the paint job, on top of the $1,000 or more for the custom-fitted mask itself.
"Being Canadian and being a big Bret Hart fan, seeing him come back like he did, was pretty cool," LaBarbera said. "I imagine a lot of hockey fans are also wrestling fans, so people might get a kick out of it."
LaBarbera says he'll continue to wear the WrestleMania-themed mask throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs as the Coyotes chase hockey immortality.
LaBarbera faces the danger of 90 mph slap shots and opponents crashing his goal crease on a nightly basis. But he told WWE.com he has tremendous respect for the WWE Superstars and Divas, and their physical endurance.
"I have all the respect in the world for what (the Superstars) do, and how they put their bodies on the line every night, and what they have to go through," LaBarbera said.
Jason, who's nicknamed "Brutus" by his Coyote teammates - "Brutus" LaBarbera "Beefcake," get it? - also got the thrill of a lifetime to attend WrestleMania on March 28, just across the parking lot from his team's home rink at Jobing.com Arena.
And attending The Grandest Stage of Them All in Phoenix left a lasting impression, according to LaBarbera.
"I've seen tons of live events, but I'd never been to a pay-per-view, let alone WrestleMania," he said. "Man, it was unbelievable. I had such a good time. It was pretty cool to be a part of it and be around it."