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Thursday, 18 September 2008

TBC: Saving Face

It's been a little while since I had time to review any hockey publications, but Teebz's Book Club hasn't disappeared. Maybe a hiatus during the summer school vacation period, but TBC is still here and still going strong. Today, TBC is proud to present a book that every hockey fan should own, regardless of age or which team you like. Saving Face: The Art and History of the Goalie Mask, written by Jim Hynes and Gary Smith and published by Wiley, chronicles the entire history of the goalie mask, the pioneers who made changes to mask designs, the artists who made goaltenders larger than life, and the men who donned the masks of legend. Honestly, if you've ever been interested in anything about goalie masks, this book is certainly for you.

Jim Hynes is a freelance writer, researcher and editor from Montreal, Quebec who has worked on numerous books for a number clients: Time-Life Books, the Home Depot, the Discovery Channel, and Reader's Digest Canada to name a few. He also worked on the book entitled First and Goal, serving as a consulting editor and photo researcher for the publication about the Canadian Football League. He is a hockey fanatic to this day, and has played hockey for 35 years and counting.

Gary Smith is a former junior and varsity university goaltender from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. He learned how to craft goalie masks in 1976, and made his first Junior "A" mask in 1978 for Ottawa '67s goaltender Jim Ralph in the OHL. Gary still makes 1970-style masks today in his workshop, and has crafted masks for movies and television such as Miracle, starring Kurt Russell, and the CBC miniseries Canada-Russia '72.

The book itself is an amazing piece of literature, and the pictures of the old-time masks are excellent. Gerry Cheevers, who wore his own historic mask, wrote the foreword of the book, and talks about how the challenges he found wearing masks. Hynes and Smith go into great detail in the book about how his mask became one of the most iconic masks of all-time in the book, but having Cheevers write the foreword gives the book a little more history.

The book is broken down into several key chapters. The introduction deals with the appeal of masks in society, and the usage of masks throughout history for various functions. Whether the mask was adorned with colour and decorations or was plain in terms of vividness, they served one purpose: protection. And that's the same evolution that the goalie mask has gone through.

Chapter One deals with "The Innovators" - the guys who redefined both goaltending and the first guys to don some sort of facial protections. Clint Benedict is discussed. Teiji Honma's mask at the 1936 Olympics gets a mention. Elizabeth Graham, a goaltender at Queen's University, wore a fencing mask in a game in 1927. All in all, though, the position of goaltender in those early days was rough as the man in between the pipes often found himself in a hospital room as much as he saw the ice. Eye injuries were the most devastating, and normally resulted in the ends of careers as loss of vision was common with those injuries.

The authors go on to introduce Bill Burchmore who, after Jacques Plante was injured by an Andy Bathgate backhand, designed a mask out of fiberglass to protect Plante's face.



This leads into Chapter Two - "The Golden Age". At the start of the 1960s, only two goalies were wearing masks. The number of goalies who went to facial protection grew as the decade progressed, and, by the end of the 1960s, those that chose not to wear a mask were in the minority. The introduction of the pretzel mask made goaltending easier, and that led to another mask designed by Detroit Red Wings' trainer, Ross "Lefty" Wilson. Ernie Higgins, a plumber by trade, came up with another design that caught on with a number of goalies. In essence, the goalie mask industry was born right around the time of the 1967 expansion from the Original Six to 12 teams.

The authors touch on how mask designers got a huge shock from the Summit Series in 1972 when the Canadian NHL All-Stars squared off against the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). It was here that everyone first witnessed the peculiar "birdcage" mask worn by Vladislav Tretiak.

Chapter Three, entitled "Paint Jobs and Metal Bars", examines the paint jobs on goalie masks, and the changes made to the original fiberglass models. Among all the historic photos, there are shots of Jim Rutherford, Rogie Vachon, and Doug Favell. They touch on how Chico Resch started the custom paint jobs on goalie masks, opening the door to all sorts of innovative designs, including Gilles Gratton's famous mask.

The authors also examine some of the changes that the masks went through during this creative period. Montreal mask designer Michel Lefebvre designed masks with additional chin and neck protection. Tony Esposito added wire to his mask for additional eye protection. Soon afterwards, the hybrid mask was designed by Dave Dryden, brother of legendary goalie Ken Dryden, in order to add additional protection while allowing greater vision for goaltenders. The hybrid mask is the chosen design as we know it today.

Chapter Four talks all about the creativity that goes into the masks today. The pictures in this section are incredible, and the information is unparalleled. I spent a ton of time reading and re-reading this section because it had so much knowledge on the pages. I won't go deep into this section because it truly is a marvel, but it needs to be seen.

Saving Face: The Art and History of the Goalie Mask will be used over and over again by this writer due to its impressive amount of historical information. The pictures are literally a Hockey Hall of Fame of goaltender masks, and have no equal in terms of the quality and number of the photographs. This is, by far, the best book I have ever read regarding goalies and masks.

If you're a hockey fan of any amount, this book is a must-have for you. Saving Face: The Art and History of the Goalie Mask comes recommended with highest esteem, and definitely receives the Teebz's Book Club Seal of Approval for its phenomenal information. Well done, Mr. Hynes and Mr. Smith! This book is excellent!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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