David Booth got a lot of attention early last season when John Tortorella went on record as saying the winger was “a weird dude”. But he’s hardly the only one of those the Canucks have.
Starting netminder Eddie Lack is an equally weird dude, as evidenced by the video introducing his latest mask design contest, in which he’s unashamedly holding an adorable Fin plushie:
But the more I think about it, the more I think this goes beyond weird.
Can we just talk for a moment about how subversive this actually is? In a sport obsessed with toughness and testosterone, whose talking heads express a fear of “pansification”, where the worst thing you can be is soft, and where Swedes like Lack are routinely accused of having this fatal character flaw woven into their damnable Euro DNA, Lack has no issues with tucking a stuffed animal under his arm as though he just happened to walk into the Canucks team store with it, like maybe he carries it around with him at all times for security. He doesn’t comment on it. He doesn’t treat it like a prop. It’s just there.
It’s funny, but it’s also a pretty gutsy move for an athlete, especially one that’s just breaking into the NHL.
Lack’s been like this for ages. He’s been carrying on a “bromance” with Roberto Luongo for ages — one that’s continued, hilariously, right into this competition:
— Strombone (@strombone1) May 26, 2014
Same goes for Lack’s facetious “obsession” with teammate Chris Tanev, a running gag that got its start when the two were teammates in the AHL.
— Eddie Lack (@eddielack) May 15, 2014
A little later on, we got a picture of the full wall:
— Eddie Lack (@eddielack) May 22, 2014
Which led to the best idea ever, courtesy hilarious Canucks fan Gráinne:
what if eddie lack had a mask that was just chris tanev’s face
— Gráinne (@wholegrainne) May 23, 2014
Yes please. Either his full face, or just a bunch of little Tanev faces, like this prototype:
— Schneider’s Teeth (@SchneidersTeeth) May 26, 2014
It’s been interesting to see how Lack’s comfort with stuff that’s usually perceived as childish, or even “girly” — and thus avoided by men afraid to have their manness questioned — has led to an uptick in mask designs with a distinctly more female (from a “gendered” perspective) sensibility.
My favourite comes from Ali Lawrence, who runs one of my favourite Tumblrs, the hockey-players-as-ponies My Little Blackhawk:
(I think Ali’s just the best, but full disclosure: I’m biased. She drew me as a pony.)
The great thing, though, is that it feels like Lack might actually give masks like these some thought.
While most goalies go for headgear covered in stuff that screams “tough dude” — flames! skulls! lightning! — Lack has never seemed overly concerned with how he’s perceived. His 2012 mask, titled, I kid you not, “Waterfun with Wolfy and Orca“, featured two original cartoon characters that he had commissioned especially for the mask.
These are little things Lack is doing, but they’re important things because they’re quietly subversive, and inclusive, too. Rather than carefully maintain and assert his masculinity by shunning anything that doesn’t reinforce it, something men are told to do from the moment they’re born, and something hockey players are expected to do in the extreme, Lack seems to have realized that, at the end of the day, if he stops a lot of pucks, no one else much cares what he’s into. It’s great, and if the You Can Play movement continues to pave the way, it’s the future of sport.
All of this is to say: part of me actually hopes he picks the pony mask.