Meet the woman creating works of art for NHL goaltenders

Winford Hunter

Tampa Bay Lightning goaltenders Andrei Vasilevskiy and Brian Elliott share the same airbrush artist, Sylvie Marsolais. She is effective alongside her lover, Alexandre Mathys, who handles advertising and helps with the ideation and development of the masks. Together, they make up the enterprise Sylabrush, stationed in Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-Lac, Quebec, an off-island suburb of Montreal.

By natural means, they are equally goaltenders. The few initial satisfied on the ice whilst squaring off in a men’s league hockey sport and they continue to deal with just about every other on a weekly basis.

Sylabrush operates with clients across the hockey globe, like several goaltenders enjoying in the equally the Nationwide Hockey League and American Hockey League.

Outside of Vasilevskiy and Elliott, other consumers consist of Jake Allen, Sam Montembeault, Joonas Korpisalo, Craig Anderson, Anton Khudobin, Louis Domingue, Zach Fucale and Jean-Francois Berube.

Just after earning an artwork degree in college or university, Marsolais began airbrush portray in 1999, mostly working on projects for friends devoid of recognizing a career in airbrush art would arrive from her get the job done.

“When I very first began, I was portray everything that was possible to paint,” Marsolais reported. “We started off with bikes. We viewed some Tv set shows about bikes finding painted and modified. There was a great deal of demand for that.

“So, we did some motorcycles. We did some wall murals. We did some motorbike helmets.

“Then, the goalie helmets begun. Something you could paint, we have been striving to do it.”

Then came Berube, Sylabrush’s first shopper that would go on to perform in the NHL, who was playing in the Quebec Important Junior Hockey League for the Montreal Juniors at the time. Not lengthy immediately after, Sylabrush gained the enterprise of Khudobin, who was taking part in for the Carolina Hurricanes and was the first active NHL customer.

Shortly immediately after, Marsolais satisfied a teenage Vasilevskiy, who was education in Stittsville, Ontario in the course of the summer.

“I was 15 or 16 years outdated, maybe 17,” said Vasilevskiy. “I fulfilled her somewhere in Canada and she just presented, ‘If you ever require your mask painted, just contact me or text me.’

“Obviously, when I arrived more than below during my very first calendar year in 2014, I didn’t have any person in this article, any artists. But I however experienced her number, so I just texted her and, since then, she’s been my artist.”

Drafted by the Lightning with the 19th general decide in the 2012 NHL Draft, Vasilevskiy initially wore a Sylabrush mask all through his remaining year in the KHL even though enjoying with Salavet Yulaev Ufa. The chin of his mask showcased his nickname, “Vasya,” which was adjusted to “Vasy” on his arrival in North The us.

On the brow of Vasilevskiy’s masks, Lightning enthusiasts have develop into familiar with a lion. But at to start with, the mask really highlighted a tiger.

“I just informed her I required a lion on there as an alternative of a tiger, in all probability mainly because of The Lion King,” Vasilevskiy joked with a snicker. “I just believed it suited me extra and, given that then, it is really been on my brow.”

It was Marsolais and Mathys who selected the tiger design on Vasilevskiy’s initial mask. Why?

“Well, he enjoys cats,” Marsolais laughed.

When Vasilevskiy designed the move to North The usa, the improve to the lion was an easy adjust for equally sides and, no matter of what cat sits on Vasilevskiy’s forehead, Marsolais has had a blast watching the goaltender’s growth on the most significant levels of hockey.

“It’s just entertaining to be equipped to see all people goalies evolving from the commencing to where they are now in their occupations,” reported Marsolais. “It really is amusing mainly because the initially time I gave Andrei his mask, he told us, ‘This is my Stanley Cup mask.’

“He didn’t earn it the initial calendar year in Tampa Bay, but it did not choose significantly lengthier in advance of he did it.”

Marsolais estimates that Sylabrush has finished over 700 goalie mask paint work opportunities more than the a long time. Mask assignments can assortment any place from 20-60 several hours of work and when Marsolais stated she cannot decide a beloved, she could notify me which a person took the longest.

“It’s tough to just pick one,” Marsolais mentioned when asked about her preferred mask to date. “It truly is generally the past one we just completed due to the fact it will take so substantially time to create one. So, when it really is finished, it is a good accomplishment and we’re always happy of the final results. It is really tricky to select only just one.

“Some masks choose 20 several hours. Other folks can acquire 40 hours. I did one particular that I painted for about 60 several hours. It was the toque that was for Michael McNiven. That 1 almost certainly took the longest time.”

All of the function by Sylabrush is accomplished freehand. That involves two of the most latest tasks, dueling chrome masks for Vasilevskiy and Elliott. Each of Tampa Bay’s goaltenders acquired new masks for the second fifty percent of the 2022-23 period and, of training course, they the two adore them.

“She’s been amazing,” Elliott claimed. “Everything’s occur back again way better than predicted. It’s generally awesome to see what you get when you open up that offer and you are not able to assist but smile when you open up it.

“It just signifies so significantly. Which is our very last piece of gear we set on prior to we go out and the minimal significant touches that I have, like where by I arrived from, the moose on the back again and my son’s initials and stuff, these are the points that you see correct ahead of you sort of go out for fight. That’s what I really like about it.”

Born in Newmarket, Ontario, Elliott grew up observing some of the good Maple Leafs goalies, from Felix Potvin to Curtis Joseph to Eddie Belfour.

“Potvin was the man correct close to when I started out staying a goalie,” Elliott described. “Growing up in Toronto, he was the person that we ended up looking at just about every night. Then, Cujo was there soon after that, so he was variety of yet another dude that I seemed up to. Then, Eddie Belfour.

“So, when you have 3 men that all have an animal concept, Potvin with the cat, Cujo with the dog, then Eddie the Eagle, I was like, ‘Well, if men are likely to call me the moose, I improved have a moose on my mask.”

Elliott’s mask design and style is a nod to Potvin, who famously rocked his trademark cat mask throughout his occupation.

“He was a person of my heroes increasing up,” Elliott spelled out. “He had a very similar mask with the cat eyes and the cat tooth. It truly is comparable.

“I did not want to go far too shut to it and I believe this a single has been the ideal yet. It is unique more than enough with the color plan and I like the chromed-out search to it.”

Elliott’s mask has often showcased a moose on the backplate, but the moment he manufactured the go down to Tampa, he had to incorporate a small flare and give the moose some sunglasses for the Florida sunlight. Also, the moose is sporting a mask as a nod to Casey Jones from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, with “B1E” as the respiratory holes of the mask.

The backplate also functions the symbol of his alma mater, University of Wisconsin, along with the initials of his 3 sons, Owen Daniel, Edward David George and Brooks William. 

Elliott’s chrome mask capabilities a palm tree/lightning bolt mix on the two sides with his signature moose antlers on the top rated. While incredibly related to his mask from the first 50 percent of the time, this mask characteristics a person variation on the top, a improve that holds a lot of which means to the veteran netminder.

“I got the outline of an F-35 fighter jet, mainly because my wife was in the Air Drive, so I required to give her a nod,” Elliott said. “The Air Drive Base down right here in Tampa, as very well as the one particular in Madison where I reside in the summer months, they have all the F35s stationed there. Each day we see them flying, so it is really variety of a nod to those types of items.

“These kinds have been my preferred. I just like the palm tree with the lightning bolt and the moose antlers. Then, including the Air Power nod into the blend, much too.

“I told her, ‘Try not to make it much too obvious. I you should not want a major jet like the Winnipeg Jets.’

“But I desired her to get the job done it into the style and design. She place a good deal of actually fantastic function into it.”

Elliott truly set some of the operate into the design of the mask with his possess hands, sending Marsolais a tough sketch of what he envisioned before leaving every little thing else in her arms.

“I am not an artist,” claimed Elliott with a giggle. “So, occasionally I am going to draw it out. I was like, ‘This is awful, but this is where by you occur in!’

“I just informed her, ‘These are the concepts that I want. You go with it.’

“She seriously did an incredible career.”

Similar to Elliott, Vasilevskiy’s style and design has remained fairly consistent all over his time in the NHL.

“It is been really considerably the exact layout for the past 5 or six several years,” explained Vasilevskiy. “I want my mask to be recognizable. I do not want to adjust much about it. I’m snug playing with it.

“There is a huge lion head on my brow. I adore cats and my nickname is ‘The Massive Cat,’ so it tends to make sense. Of course, I have to have lightning bolts with actively playing for the Lightning. I have the Russian symbol with the double-headed eagle on both of those sides, considering that I’m Russian. Which is about it.”

As Elliott mentioned, the backplate of the mask is the final thing a goaltender sees prior to he will take the ice. Very similar to his counterpart, Vasilevskiy’s most essential reminders lie on the backplate of his mask, with the names of his son, Lukas, and his wife, Kseniya, flanking a crucifix set in the center.

Though both equally Lightning netminders will don chrome masks to wrap up the 2022-23 standard time, the dueling chrome search was nothing at all more than coincidence.

“It is basically fairly humorous for the reason that we were being not long ago chatting about it,” Vasilevskiy claimed. “I instructed him I was likely to be performing chrome on my mask and he was like, ‘Oh yeah? Me far too!’

“So that was rather humorous. His style and design is rather neat far too, so now we’re equally rocking shiny masks.”

For Marsolais, who has been actively playing goaltender for 25 yrs, the biggest rewards appear in the friendships that have been formed and seeing the successes of her customers.

“It is really the finest activity,” explained Marsolais. “It’s been good to be able to watch them on Tv set, for certain. Andrei has turn out to be a good good friend to us, given that we have been working with him so lengthy.

“When they came below to play Montreal, we ended up equipped to go see them before morning skate and stuff like that. It is always great to be in a position to chat with them and communicate about goalie equipment or masks. It is really just been a large amount of entertaining getting to know them.”

With so a lot time and effort spent on her enterprise, Marsolais just not long ago painted her own mask, featuring a significant dragon, some line do the job, and her number on the chin, just like Vasilevskiy.

“It took me so extended with all of my other clients, but last summertime I did it,” stated Marsolais with a chortle. “It was just plain white for about five decades and all the men on my group have been all laughing at me.”

But all good matters just take time and Marsolais could not be happier with her mask, just like two of her clientele in Elliott and Vasilevskiy could not be happier with theirs.

“You want to be joyful about it,” Elliott mentioned. “If you happen to be not satisfied with your mask, then you are going to get a new a person fairly before long.”

Needless to say, that’s under no circumstances been an difficulty with the exquisite work of Sylabrush.

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