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Pens goalie shows the Steelers some love

Posted Feb 28, 2014

Penguins' goalie Marc-Andre Fleury will wear a Steelers-inspired mask during the NFL's Stadium Series game against the Chicago Blackhawks at Soldier Field.

Photos: Marc-Andre Fleury Steelers hockey mask

Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury held his mask for the NHL’s Stadium Series game against the Chicago Blackhawks in one hand and a Steelers helmet in the other.

He looked at both of them, and as a smile spread across his face said, “I like it.”

Fleury was holding the finished product of what is a Steelers-inspired hockey mask that he will sport in the game on Saturday night at Soldier Field in Chicago, painted by Stephane Bergeron of Griffe Originale. Decorative hockey masks have become a norm for the outdoor games, and after discussing ideas of what to do with his, honoring the Steelers while playing at a football stadium was the perfect decision.

“I like it. I wasn’t sure how it would come out,” said Fleury. “I am happy about it.

“I am trying to bring a little of the Steelers into the football stadium. A lot of the guys in the room, our staff, are big fans of the Steelers so it will be fun.”

The black mask has the gold stripe down the middle, his No. 29 on the front like the Steelers numbers, and even a facemask painted that includes a chin strap with his facial hair painted underneath.

“I wanted to make it a little personal,” said Fleury. “It’s pretty good. I am happy with it.”

His Steelers look won’t stop with the mask. Fleury is wearing gold pads and while it’s Penguins gold, they are designed to look like the Steelers jersey pants with a black stripe down the side and the toe box replicating cleats and his gloves in the framework of receiver’s gloves.  

“It’s a great sports town and even though we play hockey, we watch them, cheer for them, and go to the games,” said Fleury. “It’s a fun city to play for and to cheer for them has been a lot of fun. I am just trying to have a little football out there on the ice.”

The idea is born: The idea for Fleury’s mask originated when he and fellow goalie Jeff Zatkoff were bouncing thoughts off each other of what they were going to do with their masks for the Stadium Series game.

“We were just talking about playing in Soldier Field in a football stadium and we thought it would be kind of neat to incorporate the Steelers, such a big team,” said Zatkoff. “Everybody is such Steelers fans. If the helmet is to go to charity or be auctioned off, it would be such a big draw to be able to paint it like the Steelers helmet.”

Zatkoff said he felt the painter did a great job on the helmet, making it look “dead on” with the exception of a Penguins logo instead of a Steelers logo.

“I think it is exactly what he was looking for,” said Zatkoff. “At first he didn’t know how to incorporate the facemask with the chrome cage. Putting the chin at the bottom and the helmet at the top, it worked out perfectly.

“I just had the concept of the helmet. I brainstormed with him for the main concept, everything you see is him.”
 
Adding the Steelers touch: Once the two goalies came up with the idea, the wheels were set in motion and Penguins equipment manager Dana Heinze jumped into action. Fleury, Heinze and assistant equipment manager Danny Kroll sat down and went over some ideas while on the road, looking at pictures of Steelers helmets from Heinze’s collection in the Penguins equipment room.

“The Steelers helmet is one of the most iconic football helmets there is,” said Heinze. “We wanted to keep it in the same light. We wanted to pay tribute to the Steelers, but we kept it as a Penguins football helmet, ala Steelers. We have the Penguins logo on one side like the Steelers.

“We’re real excited about this. This just worked out unbelievable. The fact that we were able to create a Steelers helmet on a goalie mask is great. What better way to put some artwork on a mask than the Pittsburgh Steelers and make it a football helmet.”

For Heinze, who is a diehard Steelers fan, it was a labor of love as well helping to put the concept to work. He made sure the numbers were the same as the Steelers numbers, the American Flag is on the back, and even the helmet warning sticker will be put into place. The original version of the helmet had a black strap on the back and Heinze had a strap painted gold so it blended with the gold stripe on the helmet.

“We have all come together as organizations to help each other out,” said Heinze of the relationship with the Pittsburgh sports teams. “You don’t have that in some of the other markets. This is a perfect tribute to the Steelers that Marc-Andre is going to be wearing in Chicago.

“I thought he looked awesome when he went out on the ice (Wednesday at practice). The little details to keep it true to what a Steelers helmet is were important. He tried to go with a whole football theme paying respect and tribute to the Pittsburgh Steelers in our own Penguins colors. I think it worked out really cool. Being able to cross the two together and being a huge Steelers fan is awesome.”  
 
Loving the look: The mask has definitely been a hit with fans, and teammates enjoyed the first look they got of it at practice on Wednesday, along with the gold pads.

“I started getting into the Steelers since I have been here so it was cool to see the Steelers helmet out there,” said defenseman Matt Niskanen. “It’s a perfect fit for a football stadium.

“It’s a cool thing, a unique thing about Pittsburgh that all of the professional teams are the same color. That’s something that the city takes a lot of pride in. We like to support all of the other teams in town and ‘Flower’ is showing his support for the Steelers there.”

Zatkoff thinks it’s going to be an even bigger hit when the Penguins take the ice on Saturday night in Chicago.

“Everybody likes it,” said Zatkoff. “It’s kind of out of the ordinary. You never see anything like that. It’s neat, especially at Soldier Field, a historical football place, home of the Bears. It’s nice to honor the Steelers with a helmet like that.”

Not the first time: Fleury has never worn a Steelers type of mask in a game before, but he has worn a Steelers helmet on the ice. When the Steelers were preparing to play in the AFC Championship game in 2009, which later led to a win over the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII, Fleury took the ice after a game wearing a Steelers helmet and waiving a Terrible Towel.

While he likes the football helmet, he is glad to have his mask for the game.

“I would rather wear mine for the game,” said Fleury. “It would be good if I got hit, but with the pucks it might be a little rough.”