Terry Sawchuk’s son, grandson pay tribute with tattoo of mask

Toronto Maple Leafs' George Armstrong (left) chases after Montreal Canadiens' J.C. Tremblay in front of Maple Leafs goaltender Terry Sawchuk during playoff action in Montreal in 1966. (CP)

Terry Sawchuk was one of the most iconic goaltenders in NHL history and, as an early adopter of facial protection, his mask was part of the aura around him.

His son, Jerry, and grandson, Jon, have recognized that by getting matching tattoos on opposite sides of their backs featuring the No. 1 Sawchuk wore with the Detroit Red Wings and his famous fibreglass mask.

“We talked about incorporating my dad’s jersey No. 1 in it and it just got bigger,” said Jerry to NHL.com’s Dave Stubbs about the softball-sized art. “And Jon and I chose our backs because I was going to be 63 and I didn’t think I wanted anything on my biceps.”

Sawchuk held the NHL record for wins (447) and shutouts (103) when he died in 1970 of a pulmonary embolism at age 40 in 1970. He’s now sixth on the all-time wins list and his shutout mark has only been surpassed by Martin Brodeur.

A netminder for Detroit, Boston, Toronto, Los Angeles and the Rangers, Sawchuk was a four-time Stanley Cup and Vezina Trophy winner and was also awarded the Calder Trophy for the league’s top rookie in 1951.

According to Stubbs, Sawchuk played without a mask until he was struck by a puck in 1962. That’s when Red Wings trainer and practice goalie Lefty Wilson moulded the distinguishable protection using five sheets of fibreglass that included holes for the eyes and ventilation on the forehead, nose and mouth, and cheeks.

Unfortunately, the mask has been misplaced, Jerry said. However, thanks to almost two hours of excruciating inking, it will live on.

“Let me tell you something: it hurt,” Jerry said. “Two hours of pain … it felt like a knife was in there, slicing me. I had no idea how long two hours can be.”

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