A brief history of the Goalie’s face Mask

Posted on October 14, 2011 by

Jacque Plante Hockey Mask

I remember the incident that led up to the goalies wearing face masks. Notice that I didn’t say they were required. As late as 2009, there was still no official rule requiring goalies to wear face masks.In November of 1959, Jacques Plante of the Montreal Canadiens was hit in the face by a New York Ranger. He refused to return to the ice unless the coach allowed him to wear the face mask that he had designed.  Coach Toe Blake  and the fans saw him as a wimp but he was the best they had. So Blake reluctantly agreed and that was the biginning of an 18 game winning streak for the Canadiens. After that, the complaints stopped and the face mask was born.

Fifty two years later Plante has been credited for showing good sense rather than being a wimp. Some of the goalies held out until 1974 but modern players cannot imagine playing a game without one. New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur  (sorry Tracy, but it’s a good quote) has been quoted as saying” Idon’t know if I would have played goal without it”.

Today’s mask is a far cry from Jacques Plante’s original fiberglass mask design. The mask now has eyeholes with steel cages, improving the goalie’s ability to see the puck. A major criticism of Plante’s original design was that it did not protect the throat and the top of the head. The new design has even crossed sports: many baseball catchers have begun sporting hockey-style maskes behind the plate.

Now some goalies create their own designs showing off some eleaborate artwork in order to inspire their team or intimidate their opponent. Goalie Gerry Cheevers decorated his mask with stitches every time it got hit during his time in goal in the 1970s.  Fans rated his sarcastic mask the best design of all time in a 2008 poll by Hockey News.

This transition to masks worn by goalies would seem strange to the early generation of goalies but many of them needed dozens of stitches after games. both from the sticks and the pucks. Since 1979 the NHL has required all players to wear helmets so they finally got the message, that an injured player is no good for any team and personally I don’t miss seeing them pick up broken teeth and having to clean the blood of the ice.

Just a memory from the past for all you young uns. Maybe I should just stick to posting  recipes for the game but dang nab it, it was great remembering a wonderful goalie like Jacques Plante.  Go Kings!!!

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