This is a 5 minute interview recorded in 2012 with Gilles at his work, discussing the origin of his mask. It tells the wholes story, so if you have a chance, take 5 minutes and hear Gilles tell the story live and in person.
Gilles explains that when he was with the Rangers in 1976-77, he was on a plane playing backgammon with teammate Ron Greshner. Between games, Gilles was flipping through the pages of a National Geographic magazine and came across a great photo of a tiger - see the actual photo below.
|The actual Tiger photo from National Geographic|
A short while later, Harrison had made the mask - in the video Gilles describes the mask's debut and how none of his teammates had seen the mask until he wore it onto the ice for the start of a home game against the Blues. The date was January 30, 1977 - a 5-2 win for Gilles and the Rangers. The game stats can be found here:
Even though the mask is clearly that of a Tiger, people speak of the mask as being a Lion, and even now Gilles sometimes finds himself referring to it as a Lion (see the end of the 3rd video) even though he knows better than anyone that it's a Tiger.
So Lion or Tiger? Tiger it is.
Lions and tigers and bears. Oh my.
The only other part of the story that should be told is that I previously believed the urban myth that the mask idea came from a combination of astrology and past lives... The astrology part is that Gilles Gratton was born July 28, and thus is a Leo - Leo the Lion. That makes some sense. The past lives part stems from the stories that Gratton had a reputation for being a bit flaky (he did after all quit hockey to spend several years pursuing Transcendental Meditation), and he apparently talked about past lives he had lived - and I thought I had heard that he felt in one past life he had been a lion, or perhaps killed by a lion. So merge those thoughts together and that's where I thought the Lion motif had come from.
But now we know the true story - it's not really a Lion, it's a Tiger. And it came from the pages of National Geographic.
Thanks for reading -
PS Don't forget that Goalies Rule sells some great Gille Gratton goalie mask products ranging from cell phone case to coffee mugs.
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