When goaltender Wyatt Waselenchuk takes the ice for Team USA at the Winter World University Games Dec. 10-21 in Trentino, Italy, he will be doing it in style, wearing a special mask designed specifically for the tournament.
The 24-year-old senior at Minot State (N.D.) University will be unmistakable in net with his flashy headgear that includes an homage to 1980 U.S. Olympic Team icon Jim Craig on one side and the mythical character Uncle Sam on the other. Renowned Montreal-based mask artist David Leroux painted Weselenchuk’s mask.
“On one side you have Uncle Sam, which looks pretty crazy, and on the other side is Jim Craig,” Waselenchuk explained. “And then, it has some eagles on it, the stars and stripes in the background, the USA Hockey logo is on the chin. It’s pretty crazy.
“I like the back-plate on it; I think it turned out pretty cool, with our Minot State logo in red, white and blue. [Leroux] just added lots of touches to it, so there’s lots of stuff on there.”
The U.S. Men’s National University Team, which is comprised of players from collegiate ice hockey teams affiliated with the American Collegiate Hockey Association, will be looking to improve on its sixth-place finish in 2011, the best in U.S. history.
It’s almost too bad that the mask was crafted solely for the upcoming international tournament, because the mask truly looks spectacular.
“It just kind of came into fruition out of nowhere. It wasn’t anything I was planning on,” said Waselenchuk, who is 6-3 this season with four shutouts, a 1.67 goals-against average and a .950 save percentage for Minot State. “To put that kind of effort into something that’s so short-term, it almost feels like a waste. But that being said, a lot of people said it’s going to be such a good memento to have, put it up on the mantle when we’re done and always look back at it and say, ‘What an experience.’ ”
Waselenchuk, who backstopped the Beavers to the ACHA national championship last spring, elaborated on the genesis of the mask’s creation.
“I didn’t even think about doing anything like that, but I had someone approach me and said they’d like to do something like that for me,” he said. “So I gave a call to my normal painter that I’d worked with on the mask that I’m using right now, and threw a couple of ideas back and forth with him, and the main idea I wanted to do was that Jim Craig side. That was pretty cool. I remember growing up seeing that poster hanging up. My dad always had it, so I thought, ‘What an opportunity, what a chance to display that on the mask.’ I can’t really take too much credit for it other than the idea; the painter did an amazing job.”
As patriotic as the mask looks, it’s almost surprising to discover that Waselenchuk actually grew up in Port Moody, B.C., and derived his admiration for Craig from the movie “Miracle” more than anything else. But Waselenchuk does possess dual citizenship and, as such, qualified to represent the United States internationally.
“Just watching that movie, it was a pretty cool inspiration in a way, so I just thought it would be pretty cool to honor him in a way,” Waselenchuk said of Craig. “It’s kind of very surreal, but I’m not technically from the States, I’m a dual citizen. The people that were putting this team together got a hold of me last year and said, ‘Hey, we heard that you have dual citizenship, would you be able to pursue it?’ And I figured, ‘Why not?’ My mom’s from California, my dad’s from Saskatchewan in Canada. They met and, through my mom, I have dual citizenship. I ended up getting my passport this summer.”
And just because he didn’t grow up within U.S. borders doesn’t mean that Waselenchuk, who previously played junior hockey for Langley in the British Columbia Hockey League, isn’t honored and humbled to be chosen to pull on the Team USA jersey.
“It’s indescribable what it means to me to be able to do something at this level, and I just can’t thank the organization and the coaching staff enough for selecting me,” said Waselenchuk. “It’s an amazing honor. It leaves me kind of speechless to do something like this on an international level.”
His mask will likely leave opponents speechless.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
To view more of David Leroux’s handiwork, visit www.dielairbrush.ca.
|12/13||Latvia||W, 3-2 OT|
|12/18||Italy (Quarterfinals)||W, 5-0|
|12/20||Kazakhstan (Semifinals)||L, 1-5|
|12/21||Russia (Bronze Medal Game)||L, 2-6|