‘Grubi’ Mask for Cancer Cause

With personal ties to cancer in his family and German village, Kraken’s Philipp Grubauer will auction a specially designed goalie mask to raise money for research — by Bob Condor

While cancer researchers have made incredible progress improving treatments and extending lives, the reality is there is still a long road ahead to completely eradicate the disease. Another reality: almost everyone has a connection to cancer.

That includes Kraken goalie Philipp Grubauer. He’s lost both of his grandmothers to cancer in recent years. He’s also befriended a young goalie back in his native Germany in a story all will want to know.

“I think everybody’s in it,” said Grubauer, who has designed a commemorative goalie mask he will put up for auction during November, which is Hockey Fights Cancer month. “Everybody can support everybody. It’s not always easy, especially if you have family battling and dealing with that stuff. It’s not a fun time, but everybody’s here to support everybody. The more money we can raise for research, the better it is.”

This fall’s goalie mask and helmet has a special meaning for Grubauer. 

“One big reason is back home one of my little goalie buddies from the village next to us where I grew up, he had a brain tumor,” said Grubauer in a recent sit-down with Kraken colleague Alison Lukan. “[Doctors] told him he’s not likely to make it too far, chances are pretty, pretty slim.

“I always kept in touch with him, FaceTime, sending him videos. Then a miracle happened and he’s fine. Now he’s back on the ice [as a young teen] … I’ve been in touch with him for a long time.”

The goalie union is a real thing, no matter the age or league of play. Supporting family, friends and community members facing and living with a cancer diagnosis forms a similar union of empathy and fortitude. And you certainly celebrate the wins when you get them.

“It was really emotional for me to be a part of that journey,” said Grubauer. “He’s a hockey goalie and loves hockey. He was battling for a long time there and found a way. It’s incredible to see that transition from how sick he was to how happy and healthy he is right now.”

The two goalies in arms met through a friend and physiotherapist back in Grubauer’s German village. He reached out to Grubauer, asking if he might connect with the young goaltender, maybe send a video or FaceTime with him. Grubauer did all of the above and, perhaps most importantly, kept in touch.

“He was the happiest guy,” said Grubauer about the videos, photos and phone calls. “Small stories like that. If you can put a smile on a kid’s face, anybody is making a .”

This November’s “Grubi” mask in honor of Hockey Fights Cancer month started with a brainstorming session with Drew Hamlet, the Kraken’s art director. They worked on concepts and initial sketches, sending the materials to Grubauer’s usual co-creator, Dave Gunnarsson, whose Sweden-based DaveArt company designs mask helmets for numerous NHL goaltenders.

“This is the first one I did [in-house] with the graphics team,” said Grubauer, who played for Washington and Colorado in his previous NHL stops. “Drew did a phenomenal job. He put it on the computer. You can actually see how it’s going to turn out. We put a couple ideas together and sent it off to Dave … He mixed in his own creativity and I think it turned out unbelievable.”

The mask features mountains, plus a water scene that Grubauer says can be Puget Sound and/or Lake Washington. The lower part of the helmet includes treelines from Washington, those mountains and a Kraken Hockey Fights Cancer logo.

Grubauer added “personal touches” always part of his mask and helmet: “You’ve got the Bavarian flag, German flag, a couple of paw prints from my dog… (the initials of) my Mom, Dad, and girlfriend.”

Kraken Hockey Fights Cancer is an initiative in partnership with Virginia Mason Franciscan Health dedicated to raising awareness for cancer research. The initiative aligns with a larger league-wide cancer awareness campaign during November, which began in 1998. 

For details about the mask auction and other “Kraken Hockey Fights Cancer” items to raise funds for cancer research, look for upcoming info on the Kraken app, website and social channels. The Nov. 17 home game against the New York Rangers is the team’s Kraken Hockey Fights Cancer night with special warmup jerseys for auction.

This year’s Kraken Hockey Fights Cancer warmup jersey features uniquely detailed jersey numbers that incorporate purple ribbons intertwining the number set. The purple ribbon is representative of pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest forms of the disease.

Helping defeat cancer is personal for all of us. We can all support research with contributions or by making a bid on Grubauer’s mask beginning today through the end of the month.

To bid on Grubauer’s Hockey Fights Cancer mask, visit HERE.

To bid on the Kraken Hockey Fights Cancer jerseys next week, visit HERE.