Ben’s Netminders


The Oilers don’t play again until Saturday, so I thought today would be a good time to share a conversation I had with Ben Scrivens about his new mask.

Scrivens unveiled his first mask on October 20th, and along with it his new “Ben’s Netminders” program.

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Who came up with the idea about your mask (s)?

Scrivens: Well I kind of had the idea; I
had been bouncing around with people in my network and wanted to try something
new. I think I wanted to wait until I was a little more established in the
league before drawing any more extra attention. I wanted to make sure that I
was a good hockey player and ready to play well so that all of the stuff
wouldn’t be compounded as a distraction or anything like that.

You’re still always going to have people on
the outside, the naysayers, who are all ‘so and so should just stick to doing
what their job is,’ and ‘why aren’t they in the gym working out right now.’ You
always kind of dismiss that. It’s kind of fun to hear that sort of stuff now,
people who clearly have no idea what they are talking about when they are
throwing out lines like that, it’s pretty easy to dismiss.

But I had had this idea for a little while.
I had thought about it last year, but it wasn’t the right time or place in LA
and I felt like it might be something that could work this year. So I ran it by
— first and foremost I ran it by the organization — to make sure that they
were on board with it, that they were good, that they didn’t think that I was
trying to do anything other than play hockey first and foremost and this was kind
of an auxiliary part of the season for me. Once they were on board and they
knew what my thought process was, and what my plan was, the rest fell into
place pretty easily.

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The Edmonton Oilers foundation has been
instrumental in helping set everything up, helping get the mask actually
ordered and painted and a lot of the leg work has been done by them. So it was
great to have the organization on board and then actually finding the artists
and getting their work to a place where it was ready to be put on the mask. A
lot of that work was done through the artist and through The Schizophrenia
society of Alberta
and CMHA which is Canadian Mental Health Association. So I’ve definitely had a
lot of help already with this program and then I think that’s what you need any
time you have something that you want to be successful, you need buy in from a
lot of different people and I’m very fortunate that a lot of people that that
this was a great idea and helped me out with it so far.


***This is the mask Richard designed***

You’re going to have four different masks made and the artist who designed the
first mask is actually dealing with schizophrenia?

Scrivens: Yeah and that’s the distinction
to make as well. Again, part of the awareness campaign is to teach and learn
and everybody makes mistakes. One of the first mistakes I made was saying ‘it
was a schizophrenic artist’ which is not the correct way to do it. It’s the
same way that hockey players don’t like to be labelled as ‘all he is a hockey
player’ I’m a person who plays hockey, it’s the same way that you approach

He’s a person; he’s an artist who is
diagnosed with schizophrenia. So that was the first mistake that I made, but
once I got my the education part of it, dealing with him has been fantastic.
He’s a hard worker, extremely gifted artist and I kind of gave him as much
carte blanches as I could, aside from keeping with the colour scheme and making
sure that the league would approve it to be put on the mask, and I think that
he did a great job. There is a lot of symbolism within the mask that kind of
comes out once you get a closer look at it, but I think that Richard did a
fantastic job with designing it.

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Have you had a chance to meet Richard and all of the artists face to face, do
you sit down and go over some of ideas or did they send you drawings via email
with pictures, how does it work?

Scrivens: Yeah, so I sit down with them and
explain the program before they even put pen to paper. So we sit down, we chat,
they kind of show me some of their other work and devise a bit of a plan about
what they might have in mind. It’s by no means an expedited process this
program. I guess we started laying the foundation in early August, that is when
I reached out to the schizophrenia society of Alberta. They started looking around and
they found Richard not too long after that.

It’s probably been the better part of two
months in the making now for just that first mask to come out. But we did a lot
of the ground work and a lot of it was approval and logistics of it, figuring
out the timelines and who was going to paint it and how all of that stuff was
going to work.

Now I think that we have a pretty good
system in place. I think these next three masks should be able to be pumped out
as soon as the artist is happy with their work. It’s been a learning experience
for me, but so far it’s been a great one and I’m looking forward to what these
other artists can come up with as well.

What was the motivation for you to be involved with the schizophrenic society
and promote  awareness, why has this one
touched close to you?

Scrivens: Honestly, this is not a cause
that affects me directly. A lot of times you have, and not just hockey players,
people become involved with movements and with organizations that they’ve been
directly affected with. My wife and I have been very fortunate that we’ve had a
pretty good run. We haven’t had any real health issues, our families are all safe
and healthy but that wasn’t a good enough excuse for us not to do anything.

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My wife, Jenny,
works at the Ronald MacDonald House here in Edmonton, it’s another fantastic
charity, but we have a lot of down time once we get home from the rink and I
don’t really like to sit around and do nothing. There is only so many times in
life where you can actually use your voice when it’s got some clout behind it
to use it in a positive way.

So I thought that since I’m interested in
psychology and how we as people operate socially and how our brains are
programmed and all of that, I find it quite interesting. And that led me into
mental health and the fact that one in five Canadians are affected by mental
illness shows that this is not a small problem, this isn’t a small problem that
we can just brush aside and not pay attention to it at all. Your neighbour,
someone in your family, someone that you are close to and you don’t even know
that they have an issue, or they are trying to deal with something. Those are
the people that we’re trying to help with this campaign; trying to reduce
stigma so that people are more comfortable asking for help and when they do ask
for help, you actually have some resources and some empathy and a bit of an
idea of how you can help them.

So for me, there wasn’t a distinct reason
why I chose this, like I’m suffering from this, but I thought it was a cause
that needs to be talked about and I thought it was a good way to use this mask
idea to promote a cause that really needs promotion.

I think you have three of the artists confirmed, Richard [Boulet] is one and
then you have a few others. You’re still looking for a fourth, correct?

Scrivens: Ahhh… yeah, we’re kind of in that
process though. It’s kind of a niche market that we’re looking for, but we’ve
been going through the schizophrenia society and they are obviously quite
tapped into the art scene and they’ve had a lot of outreach programs helping
people to deal with and express themselves going through their treatments and
expressing themselves with their illness. So we’ve had a lot of luck and a lot
of success so far going through both CMHA and the schizophrenia society so I
don’t think that we’ll try to fix anything that’s not broken quite yet.

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Do you know who the second artist is and do you have kind of a date when you
think the next mask will be ready?

Scrivens: Yeah actually, the next artist is
a guy named Mark Munen. He’s another
local guy, lives in Edmonton.
He’s another fantastic artist. He actually just submitted his final design to
me and we’ve kind of been going back and forth for the last couple of weeks and
I think we’re almost ready to send it off to the painters, and have them start
to get it primed and ready to go.

My plan is to wear Richard’s mask for the
better part of a month here and then we’ll transition over to Mark’s and kind
of just keep going, a bit of a treadmill style but we’ve got a lot of other
plans to do with the masks.

Hopefully we can get them displayed
somewhere around the city or even in Rexall with some other work of Richard’s,
and as we get more artists and their masks finished and work and then retired
afterwards we can put them on display.

And again part of it is to show that even
people who are dealing with and suffering from different mental illnesses,
they’re normal people, they have skills, they have a lot to offer the world and
society. For these select individuals that I’ve been working with, they’re
extremely talented. It’s almost doing them a disservice to say that they are an
artist that is living with schizophrenia, if that’s an asterisk that needs to
be included. They are artists and they are fantastic at what they do and their
pieces really mean a lot and they are really quite exceptional.

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You kind of battle with that a little bit
where you don’t want to hold their illness as a talking point too much because
you want people to see the skill and the talent that these guys have, that
completely beside the other asterisk that they are dealing with an illness.

At the end of it, you’re going to auction these off to raise money?

Scrivens: Yeah, that’s the plan. Obviously
it won’t be until later in the year. We’re obviously trying to make this a
yearlong endeavour where we’re trying to do as much as we can while still
making hockey the focus.

We’re going to try to piggyback with some
other events that are specifically going on around Edmonton, and obviously the Oilers’ website
and my twitter account will be giving more details and more information as we shore up all of those details.

But the first step was getting this mask
out, and we have the next one on the go and we’ve formed a lot of alliances
with different mental health organizations here in the city, and we’re looking
to continue fostering those relationships and seeing where
it goes.

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of the fun of this is that we don’t have everything planned out quite yet.
We’ve got a lot of ideas and we’re going to try to make them work as best we
can but it’s going to be touch and go a little bit, but I think that’s only
going to make the program better, we’re going to be able to adjust on the fly
and if that doesn’t quite work the way we wanted it, we’ll adjust it and if
something really takes off we can kind of run with it and make that a new focal
point. Like I said, I’m really looking forward to playing hockey first and
foremost but this is a program that I’m excited to put my name behind and my
efforts behind outside of the rink.

Are you a superstitious guy at all Ben?  If you win four or five in a row with Richard’s
mask and Mark’s mask is ready to wear, will you wait until you lose to change it?

Scrivens: No, no, I’m anti-superstition. I
think superstitions are a horrible thing to bog yourself down with, especially
an athlete. And all of the young athletes out there I would strongly advise you
to steer clear of them as far as you can because they are nothing but trouble.
As soon as something goes wrong and all of a sudden you’re down the creek
without a paddle and you have no recourse after that to make you feeling better
when one of your superstitions goes awry.

You don’t have any routine that’s set in stone, like having to be in a certain
spot in the locker room at a certain time on game day?

Scrivens: No, no, I’m as far from that as I
can be. I obviously have routines where you stretch out where you’re doing your
different exercises and warmups to get your body feeling good and make sure
that you’re not going to pull a groin or hurt yourself going out there ice
cold. But routines and superstitions aren’t the same thing, but sometimes that line
kind of greys a little bit. You’ve just got to make sure that you’re cognizant
of the difference and you know why you’re doing certain things, and if it ever
gets to the point where you’re doing it because you think it’s going to be
lucky then that’s the time when you should probably just ditch it before it
gets into something that you’re hanging onto.

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Gregor: Congratulations on a great initiative and helping people suffering with mental health. One in five people affected is a large number, and I’m sure many people reading this have being impacted by it through family, friends or on there own. Continued success with Richard and all of the other artists. We look forward to seeing the other masks.

Scrivens: Yeah, thanks very much. I just
want to encourage anyone out there if you’re going through anything, just know
that it does get better. There are people around you that can help, you just
have to take that first step and reach out and ask for help and there are tons
of people around who are willing and able to help you help yourself.


I’m a huge fan of helping out various charities or initiatives, so I think it is outstanding what Scrivens is doing. I think Richard did a great job on his mask and I’m looking forward to seeing the other three throughout the season.

So far Scrivens is 4-1 with his new mask, and even though he isn’t superstitious, maybe there is a bit of good Karma in that mask. I’ll bet Oilers fans are hoping there is good Karma with the remaining three masks as well.

Recently by Jason Gregor:    

  • BlazingSaitls

    Long time reader, first time poster. Gregor thanks for sharing this. I have dealt with mental health issues for years, and often I feel ashamed.

    Reading that Ben is so willing to raise awareness is great. Thank you Ben for using your voice in a positive way.

    Gregor, I appreciate how you always share articles that connect real life to hockey. Your father stories, Strudwick’s adoption and many others. Thank you, and a big thanks for this article. It is inspiring for me.

    • ubermiguel

      Welcome Barney, don’t be ashamed of mental health issues. More information and education is out there than ever before, people are learning, and more and more people are coming out of the mental-health-closet. Ben is sure helping in all those regards.

      And I read the Nations for the hockey, but also the non-hockey stuff too. I learned more about physics yesterday than all the last 20 years put together!

  • BlazingSaitls

    That’s what leadership looks like. Not just doing one hospital visit a year to ‘meet the quota’, but making a gemiune effort to affect real change in the community.

    Ben and Jenny are all class.

  • Prongers Promises

    I love this program. I’m hoping to see a mask painted by one of these artists which really shows the dark side of having mental health issues. Show people the deamons that must be lived with day-in and day-out. It would make a bada$$ goalie mask and would probably raise a fortune for the cause.

    Scrivens is a great leader on this club. Really happy to have him in the organization.

  • socaldave

    By no means should we make Scrivens the captain (how dumb are we, like Canuck level dumb? I don’t think so) – but he is obviously a leader. His composure, his work ethic, his community work are all top notch. His creativity in coming up with this program is as exceptional as his record setting shut out against SJ.

    What a treat that would be, to see your artwork participating on an international stage, that would just be an incredible thing to add to your life accomplishments.

    I’ve got a TON of Oilers jerseys, the last one I got was a gift, the black and yellow version, with Nuge’s name on it. Nuge is a critical piece of the team, but it’s becoming apparent that Scrivens is abosultely critical, and another building block for this team. I hope we can keep him longer than next season. He’s finally given me reason to buy some Oilers gear again, as I was holding out until the shaped up their game a bit (and this time last year we were in panic mode and even Hall’s name was in the trade rumors).

    Best Oilers article I’ve read in a long time.

  • TheBirdOfAnger

    I always knew Ben Scrivens would be a critical part of this team. I don’t fancy the idea of a different idea goalie either. Although he might not be Vezina material (yet), I think he is plenty deserving of something like a King Clancy trophy.

    Course, trophy talk aside, Ben is an amazing goalie and person.

  • Shaun Doe

    Now I’m no detective, but it would appear as if the little hellion trashing all the posts has his bedtime at 4:30pm. Oh and great work Scrivens on picking a charity despite no personal connection.

  • ubermiguel

    That mask design looks totally pro. It has been a good piece of activism for the artist, the mental health organizations, and for Scrivens.

    I’m looking forward to seeing the next masks.

  • Leef O'Golin

    This guy is special. As much as I want him to have a long and successful career with the Oilers, I’ll be very interested to see what he does when he moves on from playing hockey.

  • socaldave

    It’s a guy like Ben who completely destroys the old adage “you cheer for the crest on the front of the jersey, not the name on the back”.

    I heard Einstein first came up with E=mc^3 and Ben Scrivens fixed it for him.

    I heard Steve Jobs was going to call it the jMac and Ben Scrivens told him to use an i instead.

    I heard Gary Bettman was going to move Atlanta to Seattle until Ben Scrivens showed him his super secret revenue models and said “C’mon Gary – Winnipeg”.

    I heard Ben Scrivens’ investment strategies are so good that the City of Edmonton could guarantee every citizen Oodle Noodle and Bud lights for life.

  • socaldave

    Regarding your poll, What is the Scariest Thing:

    Having a better team than Calgary but still being below them in the standings.

    I got news for you.

    The scariest thing is that the Oilers DON’T have a better team than Calgary and they will finish behind them in the standings.