In keeping with the Halloween theme, nothing is scarier than a hockey goalie mask thanks to Jason of Friday the 13th fame. But this is Throwback Thursday so what you probably don’t know is the story of the pro hockey goalie who was the first to regularly wear a mask.
On November 1, 1959 Montreal Canadien Jacques Plante became the first hockey goalie to wear a full face mask. While Plante took a lot of heat for it at the time, within a few years, every goalie in the league was wearing them – and Plante’s story will give you a clue about why.
That fateful November night, about 3 minutes into a game versus the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, Plante was hit in the face by a puck splitting his lip from the corner of his mouth all the way up to his nostril and breaking his nose. He tried to keep playing, but there was blood everywhere so within a few minutes Plante was sent to the locker room to be stitched up. When he returned to the ice 20 minutes later, he was wearing the fiberglass mask he had been wearing for practice. Up until that night, the Canadiens legendarily cranky coach Toe Blake had not allowed Plante to wear the mask during a game fearing it would impair his vision. But after being stitched up, Plante put his foot down and refused to play without the mask.
Coach Blake, Plante’s teammates, opposing players and reporters mocked him mercilessly. But Plante said that after four broken noses, a broken jaw, two broken cheekbones and almost 200 stitches in his head, he just didn’t care how the mask looked. And given that Plante won the Vezina Trophy (the NHL’s goaltending prize) seven times, was named to the NHL All-Star team seven times and had six Stanley Cup wins, it wasn’t long before he was imitated rather than mocked. Plante style masks were popular throughout the 1960’s – and Plante himself played in the NHL until 1975 so you could argue that they played a role in his longevity in the league.
Want to know more about Jacques? Check out this link.