DAVID BIANCULLI

Founder / Editor

ERIC GOULD

Associate Editor

LINDA DONOVAN

Assistant Editor

Contributors

ALEX STRACHAN

MIKE HUGHES

KIM AKASS

MONIQUE NAZARETH

ROGER CATLIN

GARY EDGERTON

TOM BRINKMOELLER

GERALD JORDAN

NOEL HOLSTON

 
 
 
 
 
GOOD SPORTS: Behind the mask
October 29, 2009  | By Diane Werts
 

The hockey fanatic in me can't let this one pass without promotion.

Sunday marks the 50th anniversary of hall-of-famer Jacques Plante donning the first true goalie mask in an NHL game. His shocking move established a standard that not only protects goaltenders today but delivers plenty of cool on-ice art.

The NHL hour special 50 Years Behind the Mask (Sunday at 7 p.m. ET, NHL Network) traces that history and explores the impact of this now taken-for-granted piece of gear. (The special also streams live at nhl.tv.)

jacques plante mask.jpg

A couple of NHL goalies remained unmasked when I started watching hockey as a '70s kid, but everyone pretty much assumed they were nuts. Hard to believe, but all NHL goalies had stopped pucks barefaced before Plante took a stand for safety. (The great Glenn Hall set the still-standing 502 consecutive games record without one.) Mask-wanters had been derided as cowards, yet no one could question all-star Plante's credentials, and soon other goalies followed his lead. And that changed how they played the game.

"To me, those [mask-less goalies] were the most courageous athletes ever," ex-goalie TV analyst Chico Resch told NHL.com, "more so than race car drivers or bull fighters because every night you had guys with those hooked sticks unleashing shots where they didn't know where it was going and neither did the goalies." Resch noted that in many old photos, non-masked goalies have their eyes closed while making saves. "That's why Glenn Hall threw up every night [before and during the game]. One mistake could cost you your career. The pressure was incredible."

richter mask liberty.jpg

Wearers of the early full-face masks (today supplanted by helmets with face cages) began to decorate them, most famously in Gerry Cheevers' stitch patterns for the '70s Boston Bruins. Now, goalies spend thousands on elaborate helmet paintings of cityscapes, fierce animals, personal heroes and trademarkable logos. Back then, Cheevers' trainer marked his puck stops with a Sharpie.

And then there's hockey-mask wearing Jason of the Friday the 13th movies. Even he makes his mark in the hockey mask package at nhl.com.

 

 
 
 
 
 
Leave a Comment: (No HTML, 1000 chars max)
 
 Name (required)
 
 Email (required) (will not be published)
 
XILSO
Type in the verification word shown on the image.