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February 12, 2013

Middleton expert creates custom goalie masks for NHL pros

(Continued)

“I found out not only could I do it faster, but I was making them better. The goalies weren’t used to that. Sometimes masks could take up to two years, but pros don’t want to wait that long. They can’t.”

When he first began to fool around with the idea of making the masks, Malerba worked out of the shed in his backyard. From there his father gave him a place in his business to work on new ideas until he opened his own shop in Middleton.

“I remember doing the first one and if it wasn’t for my wife, I was gonna quit,” admitted Malerba. “It wasn’t as easy as I thought — it was an all-day thing. Certain things that take me 10 minutes today took me four hours back then.”

There was a lot of trial-and-error that went into perfecting the masks. Malerba taught himself what he could about constructing the masks, but he also attended many seminars.

Safety always came first in Malerba’s eyes. He had to learn which products were the safest and which products were the best. When it comes to safety, Malerba says he doesn’t like to cut any corners.

Perfecting the product

To get the masks to fit perfectly, Malerba has goaltenders come into the shop to take molds of their faces. After Malerba has the proper forms, he can then customize the helmet and put on the cage, which he also designs and builds himself.

Malerba has several different cage designs, but it’s up to the goalies which one they decide to go with. It comes down to comfortability and preference when deciding which cage to put on the custom masks.

One cage in particular has a triangular bar running down the middle of the mask, which Malerba thought up while watching a TV show on building bridges.

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