NICEVILLE, Fla. — The U.S. hockey team's goaltenders will be sporting the artwork of one of Niceville's own during the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Jason Livery, owner of HeadStrongGrafx in Niceville, pulled red, white and blue from his paint collection to create patriotic mask designs for goalies David Leggio and Brandon Maxwell.
"I do a lot of work for USA Hockey, and they approached me three weeks ago and said they have guys who were announced to play for Team USA for the Olympics," Livery said. "They asked if I would be interested in painting their masks, and of course I said yes."
Livery is one of only a handful of people worldwide who specialize in painting goalies' masks.
The painter was introduced into the industry in 2011 while living in St. Louis. It was there he got a chance to paint a mask for Brian Elliott, who at the time was a goalie with the NHL's St. Louis Blues. Since then, Livery has painted masks for Jake Allen, Jaro Halák, Scott Darling, Ben Bishop, Calvin Pickard, Jonas Hiller, Kari Ramo, Darcy Kuemper, Jimmy Howard, Petr Mrazek and many others.
The tradition of painting goalie masks began in the late 1960s with Boston Bruins trainer John Forristall. After a puck hit Bruins player Gerry Cheever in the mask, Forristall drew black stitches on it. Since that iconic moment, hockey mask painting has become widely popular as well as competitive.
While working on the U.S. Olympic masks last Friday, Livery received word that he was announced as an official mask painter for the North American Hockey League.
"To represent our country and be able to provide the artwork for the 2018 Winter Olympics is an honor," Livery said. "I never thought in a million years I would be sought after the way I am to do some of these high profile masks."
Because of the high demand for his work, Livery employs a designer out of New York who works with the goalies to create the mask templates. Livery then uses those templates to airbrush onto the masks.
Livery said designing masks for the Olympics is especially tricky because of artistic restrictions. He said his team had to throw out several ideas, like painting the Statue of Liberty or using the phrase "The land of the free."
"It's been a learning experience," he said. "Usually the goalies say what they want and the team has no problem with it. We couldn't have what I thought were iconic images and phrases (for the U.S. Olympic masks)."
Instead, Livery and his designer opted for the Great Seal of the United States and the official "U.S.A." Olympic logo.
In addition to the Winter Olympics, Livery also is painting goalie masks for the Paralympic Games' U.S. sled hockey team.
"The goalies for the sled hockey team either have one leg or both legs amputated," he said. "I got to watch them play four years ago when I painted their masks last time. They're amazing."
Livery said now that his artwork will be displayed on the Olympic and Paralympic players, he's excited to become more involved and watch the U.S. athletes.
"I really get into our patriotic aspects of the country," Livery said. "It's exciting for me to be a part of that. Knowing that I'm actually being a part of the Olympics and the world is watching these games is incredible."