The Montreal Canadiens’ goalie, Jacque Plante was hit in the face by New York Rangers’ Andy Bathgate’s shot on goal. Plante required 14 stitches in his face that was cut from his upper lip all the way through his nostril. The game was stopped for 1 hour so that he could get stitches in his face. His nose was relocated to the side of his face. Not a pretty sight. Back then play was stopped when a player was injured in order to get him stitched up so he could resume playing. When Plante returned to the ice, he was wearing a mask that he had crafted. It had 3 holes in it and no padding. Two holes for the eyes and one for the mouth. Toe Blake, the Canadiens coach was furious. He told Plante that he could not play with the mask on as he would be a laughing stock. There was no backup goalie available and Jacques Plante knew it. He told Blake that he would not go back in goal without the mask. Toe Blake had no other choice but to let Plante play with the mask on or else he would forfeit the game. Blake said that by wearing the mask, Plante would lose his courage and not play as well. The Canadiens went on to win that game.
So Jacques Plante played the first ever game with what would not become mandatory for many years later. Toe Blake hated Plante from that day forward and in fact was instrumental in having Plante traded to the New York Rangers the following year. That was the year that the Canadiens ended their 5 year Stanley cup winning streak. In an interview on the NHL Channel, Jean Belleveau admitted that Jacques Plante was a bit of an eccentric but that he was the greatest goalie of all time. Even in his 50’s Plante would put on goalie training camps for young players and could still stop the pucks being slammed at him during the practice sessions. He died at 86 in Switzerland from stomach cancer and will be forever remembered as the player who changed the game of hockey.