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Honor and respect among the motivations for senior J. D. Wells’ unique helment design


J.D. Wells is the senior goaltender for the Johnnie hockey team. His 7-2 record in the second half of last season helped propel St. John's into the MIAC postseason, a goal that the team hopes to reach again in 2012-13 with Wells in the net. | Evan Gruenes

This past summer, SJU senior goaltender J.D. Wells crossed a major item off of his college bucket list.

In preparation for the 2012-13 season, he had his goalie mask custom painted, something that he has always wanted to do. The artwork displayed on the helmet is meant to honor both St. John’s as well as his late grandparents.

“I’ve had pictures of what I wanted on the mask for the last two years,” Wells said. “Now that I’m a senior, I finally decided to do the paint job this year.”

The Abbey is one of three principle images that have been painted onto the helmet.

On the left side is a depiction of the Stella Maris Chapel, which has been a fixture on the SJU campus since its construction in 1872. The right side displays the outside of the Abbey Church, a symbol of St. John’s and arguably the most recognizable building the campus has to offer. But the side with the most sentimental value for Wells is the back, which contains an image of his grandparents’ initials spread across a view of the Abbey stained glass.

“I always wanted to honor them,” he said. “I felt having their initials in the Abbey stained glass would be a great way to do so. I wanted to pay tribute to my school and to them.”

Wells chose to take his design ideas to “Spray Designs” in Ramsey, Minn. The artist, Chris Merkl, had only painted a handful of hockey masks in his career, but Wells was confident that he could do the job.

“I found some of his work on motorcycles and portraits,” Wells said. “I could tell he was good by how amazing his detailed work looked, and he seemed really excited to do it.”

Head coach Doug Schueller is more than aware of how popular custom paint jobs are for goalies and their masks. Though St. John’s hasn’t had an extensive history of goaltenders doing that, Schueller maintains that he has no problem with Wells’ helmet pursuits.

“It wasn’t an issue at all,” he said. “My thought is, if a player wants to do something like what J.D. did, something that pays a lot of respect to the tradition of this university or is personally meaningful, go for it, as long as it stays appropriate.”

The rest of the Johnnie hockey team also seems to have taken a liking to Wells’ customized headgear.

“I think it’s really awesome,” senior forward Joe Harren said. “It shows how much this school means to him and what it means for all of us on the team as well. That’s probably why we like it so much. It’s inspiring for us to see when we’re out there playing.”

Wells was a big part of the Johnnies clinching a MIAC playoff berth in 2011-12. He returns this season as the projected starting goaltender for SJU, but with this being his senior year, it will also be his final season with the team.

No matter how involved Wells chooses to be in hockey after graduation, he will always have his mask, something to remind him of the school he loves and the people who helped him get there.

“It’s a neat thing for him to have,” Schueller said. “Obviously, his grandparents are very important to him. Most goalies include something personal on their helmet when they get it painted, because that’s something you hold onto for the rest of your life.

“I think it’ll mean something to him for a very long time.”

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