It was like any other goal celebration: Ales Hemsky of the Edmonton Oilers circling from the net around the boards, pumping his gloves. Then television cameras caught one of the 2013 NHL season’s most surreal sights: a man, wearing a horse’s head, rising up and banging against the glass.
It was a moment that sparked social media whimsy and launched several dozen screen-caps. If Rick Banack was hoping to bewilder the entire hockey world, it was a success.
But really, all he was trying to do was troll Roberto Luongo.
“I thought it would be kinda funny,” said Banack, whose horse mask was captured during the Vancouver Canucks’ 3-2 shootout win over the Oilers at Rexall Place.
“Plus, Roberto Luongo’s got kind of a long face. So I made up a sign that said, ‘Hey Luongo, why the long face?’ And I was wearing a horse mask. So, they kinda went hand in hand.”
Banack lives in Fort St. John, B.C., which he said is a seven-hour drive to Edmonton. He attended last night’s game with his wife and oldest son, who were attending their first NHL game.
That’s right: Their first NHL game, Escorted by a man in a horse mask.
“Yeah,” said Banack, laughing. “I didn’t have it on the whole game, just when the puck was in our end.”
He lucked out that Hemsky’s goal celebration came his way, and that he was seated next to a Sportsnet cameraman.
He didn’t discover he was an instant, momentary celebrity until the second intermission, when someone told him ‘Twitter just lit right up with your horse head.” Banack’s phone was dead; when he arrived home and recharged it, he discovered a mountain of text messages.
Where did the inspiration for this bizarre display come from?
Banack said he found the horse-head Photobombing meme on the insanely odd website The CHIVE. He decided to get in on the fun, buying a mask off of eBay and occasionally wearing it to work, to the delight of his coworkers at Pure Energy back home.
The reason? Banack is a Toronto Maple Leafs fan. “And I didn’t want him on the Leafs.”
And yet, Luongo won the game in overtime. Did the horse head jinx the Oilers?
“I don’t think so. Maybe I just motivated Luongo to play better.”
One Canuck that appreciated the costume: Alex Burrows, whom Banack said rifled the puck at him and then laughed as he skated by. (Henrik Sedin also flipped his son a puck.)
So there’s how we saw a man about a horse (mask) during the Oilers game. Which leads us to our most important question:
He’s at a hockey game. Did he try to drink a beer through the horse mask?
“I tried. It didn’t work. The straw was too short,” said Banack.
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