Best Canucks Masks, Round I: Curtis Sanford vs. Corey Hirsch

BeakerRage Engaged. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)

Welcome to the Smyl Conference folks. Where it's an ideal 70 degrees (21 Celsius) with a light breeze all year long. A loving land where you'll never hear Miley Cyrus. Where Damian Cox isn't allowed past the front gate. Where children, nuns and pacifists all repeatedly punch Jesse Boulerice in the face with a rusty chain. Where fresh muffins served by Giada De Laurentiis await you every morning. Indeed it's disgustingly magical.

Four more first round match-ups await your vote, starting with another back-up bash between the Sandman and the Psycho. Two may enter, but only one may leave.

Curtis Sanford

Though undrafted out of juniors, St. Louis signed Sanford in 2000 and stashed him on the farm where he bobbled between the Peoria Rivermen (ECHL) and the Worcester IceCats (AHL). Due to injuries to Blues goalies Fred Brathwaite and Brent Johnson (...trying...to...stifle...laughter...) in 2002, Sanford made his first NHL appearance and would string together a 5-1 record in his brief run. The Blues stashed him away in the minors the following season and through the lockout before he won the back-up role to Patrick Lalime in 2005. Since Lalime was abhorrent Sanford earned plenty of starts before getting injured in March. The following season the Blues platooned him with Manny Legace but Sanford was injured again and ended the year with his worst numbers to date (8-12, .888 SV% and a 3.18 GAA).

Enter the Vancouver Canucks who signed Sanford to a one year deal at the start of free agency in the summer of 2007. At the time he seemed eager enough to be Luongo's understudy and the franchise was happy to have a more seasoned back-up (no offense Dany Sabourin) in case of injury which, as it turns out, is exactly what happened when Luongo suffered a rib injury. Sanford stepped in admirably, winning four of his first seven starts before the wheels came off the bus for the entire team and they missed the playoffs. Sanford returned as back-up and when Luongo went down with a groin injury in November, Sanford was once again the starter with Schneider backing him up. However by December Sanford too hit the IR (necessitating the Jason LaBarbera trade) and by the time Sanford was healthy the crease was full and he ended up with the Moose.

After his time in Vancouver was up he went on to Montreal (though playing only for their AHL team) and then last season with the Blue Jackets.

Sanford Trivia: This past June Sanford signed with the KHL's Lokomotiv Yaroslavl who you may recall didn't play last season after the horrific plane crash which claimed the lives of their entire roster.

Sanford Mask Gallery: Nicknamed "Sandman", Sanford's original design featured a Gandalf-looking wizard predominantly on the forehead, a design element he kept with him after Vancouver. However you may also recall one of the better marketing gimmicks that Vancouver ran was when they allowed anyone to submit a design for Sanford's new mask which lead to, naturally, hilarious results. [1] [2] [3]

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Cory Hirsch

Hirsch was selected in the 8th round (169th overall) by the Rangers in the 1991 NHL Entry Draft. The Medicine Hat native had an impressive resume: CHL and WHL Goalie of the Year in 1992 in addition to the Memorial Cup's top netminder. The following season he transitioned over to the Binghamton Rangers and was called up in January 1993, backstopping his first win over Wayne Gretzky's LA Kings. New York would stash him away in the AHL (because are you going to bench Richter, Vanbiesbrouck or Healy?) until late 1995 when Vancouver acquired him for Nathan LaFayette. Hirsch would split goaltending duties with Kirk McLean in 1995, posting a 17-14-6 record with .903 SV% and 2.93 GAA. He split the following year too, though like the rest of the squad at the time took a step back statistically. He would hang around Vancouver sparingly the next two seasons (when the goalie graveyard moniker was in full effect) before moving on mostly at the AHL level. Hirsch would appear briefly in net for the Caps and later the Stars before retiring in 2006. Since then he's worked as a goaltending consultant for the Canadian World junior teams, one year as the goaltending coach for the Leafs and currently serves as the goaltending coach for the Blues.

Hirsch Trivia: You know that frozen moment in Olympic hockey lore where some poor goalie was getting destroyed by Peter Forsberg? You're Canadian, of course you do, so you know who that goalie was...right?

Hirsch Mask Gallery: Forget those Saw designs Tampa netminders had a few years ago. Hirsch went with a classic in the mid 90's: Alfred Hitchcock, Bates Motel and Psycho. Enough said...though to be fair he did eventually change the design after his NHL career nosedived. [1] [2] [3]

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