Sunday, 1 November 2009

How Plante Changed The World

50 years ago today, kids, was the first time that Jacques Plante broke out his infamous mask and wore it in a game. November 1, 1959 changed the way that fans and opposing players saw the game forever. Rangers' legend Andy Bathgate fired a high backhand on net that caught Montreal Canadiens’ goaltender Jacques Plante in the face. The resulting cut on Plante’s face sent him to the trainer’s room, causing a 45 minutes delay in the game. When he returned from getting stitched up, his face was dramatically different – he was wearing a mask! Because of Plante's injuries and his resulting decision to wear a mask, goaltenders today have reached new heights with their masks. Not only do the serve as protection, but many of them make statements about the goaltenders themselves.

Today is nothing more than a gallery of photos of some of the best masks that have been worn in hockey. All of these are based entirely on my opinion, and not some scientific process. That means all of these choices are up for debate. Please feel free to discuss my choices in the comments below if you feel I've made a bad choice.

  • Gary Bromley's skull mask is still one of the most intimidating masks in NHL history in my opinion. Warren Skorodenski of the Blackhawks also went with the skull imagery.
  • Speaking of Blackhawks, I absolutely love Tony Esposito's modified mask. The reason? More protection around the eyes. It's just a very unique mask.
  • More Blackhawks: Murray Bannerman's "war paint" mask is still one of the finest paint jobs in NHL history. Bannerman was the first goaltender to change the logo on his chest into a full facemask without using the logo. This mask design is replicated more often than any other for collectors.
  • The Bruins have had a number of good masks, but Gerry Cheevers' mask is still the most recognized mask today. The reason for the stitches? Every puck mark on his mask would have been a stitch in his face, so the equipment guys simply painted a new stitch for every new mark on his mask. Steve Shields, while playing for Boston, used his mask as a tribute to Gerry Cheevers' iconic look.
  • Hannu Toivonen's mask in Boston was a tribute to one of Hollywood's greatest masks in Denis Lemieux. Denis Lemieux was, of course, the goaltender in Slap Shot. I love the addition of the ears and hair in the paint job.
  • I still think Roberto Luongo's throwback mask is one of the best. Simple and a great design.
  • While his "Marvin the Martian" theme has made him instantly recognizable, I am still a fan of Patrick Lalime's first mask with Pittsburgh. The little Penguin peering out from the igloo is innocent enough, but Lalime's record to start his career of 15-0-1 certainly spoke differently.
There are a few of my favorite masks. I'm sure you have yours, and I want to hear about them in the comments. It's hard to believe that only 50 years ago today, Jacques Plante donned what is now considered mandatory protection for goaltenders. And it may not even had happened if it wasn't for an Andy Bathgate backhander.

Let me hear about your favorite masks in the comments!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!


Dondi said...

As a child of the 70's and 80's my picks are biased, but I'll do my best. Also, if you look up "Islander Homer" in the hockey dictionary, you will see my face.

#1 - No mask to this day beats Gary Bromley's Cannucks mask.

#2 - Gilles Gratton's Ranger mask. All is forgiven for being a Smurf if you sport a mask that cool looking.

#3 - of course Smitty's NY Islander mask from his 77-78 season.

#4 Gilles Meloche's Baron's mask. Don't remember much about the old club from Cleveland, but this mask was cool.

#5 Liut's Stinger mask. Don't know much about anything from the WHA, but a sharp looking mask.

The rest in no particular order:

Beaupre's Caps mask from 92-93. I really like this one since everyone was wearing cat's eye masks by this time. Don always wore that weird cage since he was North Star and seemed to have kept it when he switched up to a mask. I wore a Badger when I was a kid and playing on a team named the "Capitals" I had mine painted just like his.

Eddie Belfour's Hawks mask from the 89-90 season. Felix Potvin (Leafs) and Cujo (Blues) sported some sharp looking masks. I liked Richter's Ranger mask from 93-94, even though the Statue of Liberty is in New Jersey.

JeffB said...

Greatest goalie mask ever - Gilles Gratton's Lion/Tiger mask. Years ahead of it's time.

Teebz said...

The irony is that Gratton got his idea from thumbing through the pages of a National Geographic. He saw it, and commissioned the work to be done.

All of the masks that involve a real nature scene, though, seem to be some of the best. Brian Hayward's Sharks mask, for example.

Unknown said...

I've always been partial to Patrick Roy's Habs mask. This is most likely due to my love of les canadiens but also because like Brodeur it was a simple yet modern design. Most masks today look overly jumbled and don't look 'uniform' to the team. Roy's was rich in colour, unique yet blended in. It's one of the reason I like Luongo's throwback mask more than anything else out there these days.