Manitoba

Winnipeg Jets goalie has Kroppy portrait painted on hockey mask

Michael Hutchinson wanted to honour vet who was staple at Jets games: Artist

Michael Hutchinson wanted to honour vet who was staple at Jets games: Artist

Winnipeg Jets superfan Len 'Kroppy' Kropioski's likeness will be on goalie Michael Hutchinson's mask.

The likeness of one of Winnipeg's most beloved fans will be seen on the ice through this year's hockey season.

Winnipeg Jets goaltender Michael Hutchinson is paying tribute to Len Kropioski, affectionately known as Kroppy, after having Kroppy's face painted on his helmet.

Quebec artist David Leroux, owner of Diel Airbush, said he was honoured to design and paint the mask after Hutchinson contacted him about it. 

"I had no idea who Kroppy was, so he had to tell me what was the story behind it," said Leroux. "So he sent me a couple of pictures and I had to work off of them.

"I read a little bit about him and then the equipment manager sent me a couple of pictures with all the players with Kroppy," he added.

"They really liked him and they really appreciated what he did — he was a war veteran and they really liked him. So he sent me a bunch of pictures with all the famous Jets players taking pictures with him, so I kind of figured out who he was and how important he was for Winnipeg, for the Jets and for the players." 

Leroux has been painting custom designs on Hutchinson's masks for the past five or six seasons and every year the goalie sends the artist photos of his pads so the designs will work together. 

"Since his pads are pretty much all white this year, I wanted to create a really clean and classic paint job for this year.

"Kroppy's portraits are made with a pencil. Usually everything I do is with an airbrush, so it's paint and a little spray gun. But for this one, I wanted the portrait to be really subtle so I used a regular pencil on the white background.

"If you're close up to the mask you can see all the portraits," he added. "If you're like far away, you don't really see it, it looks almost all white, so that way it works perfectly with his gear."

A custom-painted mask usually takes about four days to design and execute, said Leroux, and can run anywhere from $800-$1,200 depending on the level of detail. While he has other NHL goalie clients, he is also putting together custom helmets for European leagues and "regular, beer-league guys."

A mask will last for years, if taken care of, he added. "A regular kid, he can play with this mask as long as it fits him. I've had beer league guys play with their mask for like, five, six years. Sometimes you get bad luck, you get a hard shot to the mask and it chips the paint a little or the mask breaks, but it lasts as long as you want."

I hope that the Jets and the Winnipeg fans will like that mask ... that's what Mike wanted and I really like that mask too.- David Leroux

NHL players typically go through a couple masks a year, not because they're no longer good, said Leroux, but because they want to change up their designs. 

Eventually, Hutchinson plans to give the helmet to Kroppy's family, said Leroux."I'm not sure if I can tell you or not, but his idea was to play with it all season long and then give it to Kroppy's family so they can have a souvenir of that season.

"I hope that the Jets and the Winnipeg fans will like that mask ... that's what Mike wanted and I really like that mask too. I want to wish all the Winnipeg Jets fans a great season and I hope they won't beat my Montreal Canadians."

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