On March 22nd, 16 masks from ECHL goaltenders were presented via social media to fans. The designs on the masks featured various themes – logos or references to the team/city they played for, historical buildings, tributes to family heritage, and cartoon characters, among others. The masks were shared with fans as part of the 2018 ECHL March MASKness Challenge – a social media based competition for the most impressive mask in the league. Over the next several weeks, ECHL fans had the chance to vote on Twitter (via polls) to decide which masks deserved to advance in the bracket-style competition.
By March 29, only four masks remained in the competition. Ty Reichenbach of the Norfolk Admirals faced off against Dan Vladar of the Atlanta Gladiators in one half of the Final Four matchup. Reichenbach’s mask featured a brick wall design that had opposing ECHL team names on top of it. A tribute to Norfolk, his mask also featured the USS Wisconsin battleship. Letting his nephew help design the back plate every year, Reichenbach’s back plate featured super heroes Wolverine and Captain America. Vladar’s Boston Bruin themed mask had extensive Bruins design throughout, as well as a tribute to the Boston Freedom Trail. Reichenbach advanced to the March MASKness Final with 63% of the votes cast in the poll.
On the other side of the bracket, Toledo’s Pat Nagle faced off against Worcester Railers netminder Mitch Gillam. Nagle’s mask pays tribute to the Grand Rapids Griffins, with whom he is on a contract. The mask featured the Griffins logo on the front and a griffin on the side. The back featured a ‘Support the Troops’ message as well as his nickname, ‘Nags.’ Gillam’s mask features the Railers team logo and embodies the team’s locomotive theme. It was originally sketched by Railers team president Mike Myers. Nagle moved on to the March MASKness Final with 63% of the votes cast.
The March MASKness Final commenced on April 2nd and ECHL fans had 48 hours to cast their vote of which mask was more deserving of being named champion – either Reichenbach’s or Nagle’s. Over 1,800 votes were cast in the final in which Nagle won 67% of the fan support to become the 2018 ECHL March MASKness champion.
Nagle shared additional details on the design process of the winning mask with ECHL.com. “Brad Thompson, the equipment manager in Grand Rapids, who I’ve known for a long time, he’s got the creative juices, as does the painter, Jason Livery. So to be honest, I’m not really picky with most things, so I kind of let them go at it and then threw in my two cents here and there as they started sending me drawings and coming up with ideas. It came out really neat – Jason did an awesome job painting it. It’s got a matted finish so it’s a little different than some of the shinier, glossier ones that you see guys wearing. It’s got a little bit of everything – they did a nice job coming up with the idea and then executing it. I don’t add a whole lot – there’s ‘Support the Troops’ on the back – I’ve had that for a while. I have a lot of family and friends that have served or are serving – you don’t hear a lot of positive talk all the time about what the troops do for us and for our country. So, being American, I think any time you can help them out and let them know you support them, that’s huge.
Nagle was quick to credit the Walleye fans for their support on and off the ice all season. “They’ve been great in all facets of the game. They’ve been really good to us at home – we’ve had a great home record this year and I think it’s largely attributed to them. It’s such a fun place to play and any time you’re in front of a sold out crowd that’s on your side it makes things easier. As far as the social media…obviously they’re on there as well and doing big things so that’s always fun for us.”
To see all the masks from this year’s competition, please visit: https://business.facebook.com/pg/ECHLHockey/photos/?tab=album&album_id=10156054178873503