Sunday, November 1, 2009

It Was 50 Years Ago Today...

...that Jacques Plante, of the Montreal Canadiens, donned a hockey mask for the first time.

And with that, the look of hockey changed in an instant.

When JP first put on the mask, he was mocked, ridiculed and made fun of to no end.

"A goalie wearing a mask," John Q. Hockey player would say. "That's like a forward wearing a helmet! Or using a curved hockey stick!"

Ah, how the times have changed.

Being a former goalie (who will one day don the pads again...I swear!) I have been fascinated with masks forever.

There have been thousands of masks that have been worn in the NHL since November 1, 1959 and each one has had it's own unique look.

Unfortunately, all of todays masks are vitually the same, just with different paint jobs. While the images are very well done, they tend make the mask too busy and impossible to identify and understand without a close-up view. Check out Rick DiPietro's...CLICK HERE.

The GREAT masks were the ones that were worn in the 70's and 80's. They were fibreglass masks made out of a mould of the goalies face. They offered very little protection, but it was better than going out on the ice barefaced! They came in all sorts of different shapes and sizes and weren't "overdone" like contemporary ones.

To commemmerate the 50th anniversary of the hockey mask, I wanted to give you my top five masks of all time. Simply click on the name, to see the mask.

5. Brian Hayward, San Jose Sharks
Okay, I will give credit to one of the "new" style masks. This beauty was probably the mask that inspired all of todays goalies to get intricately detailed paint jobs. While far too many current masks are too "busy" for my liking, the simplicity and fierceness of Hayward's makes it a must for my top five.

4. Ron Low, Washington Capitals
Low used this mask to honour the USA's bicentennial in 1975. It's very difficult to find a good picture of Low wearing it in action (really, who would bother taking pictures of the 1975 Washington Capitals?), but it's certainly better than this ugly helmet/cage combo he wore later in his career.

3. Gilles Gratton, New York Rangers
A brilliant mask...what an amazing paint job. It could easily be number one on the's just that most people would say "Who the hell is Gilles Gratton?"

2. Gerry Cheevers, Boston Bruins
With each stitch representing a place on the mask where a puck, stick or skate would have cut him, if not wearing the mask, Cheevers would have been a very disfigured man today.

1. Gary Bromley, Vancouver Canucks
With a nickname like "Bones" it was appropriate that Bromley wore this amazing skull mask. Intimidating, cool, unique. It's ironic that he wore such a cool mask, while at the same time wearing what's been called the ugliest uniform of all time!

What would be really great, but I seriously doubt anyone would do it, would be for a goalie in one of tonight's games wear an "old style" mask for a period to honour the day. They could even wear one just for the warm up!

But with the speed of the shots and the lack of protection a crappy 70's/80's mask has, I don't think there'd be any way a goalie would step out on the ice wearing cool as it might look.

And just to think, there was a day where NO ONE wore one!

Leave me your comments on what masks YOU love...maybe it's the mask of Mike Liut, Mike Palmateer, Curt Ridley, or Ken Dryden. I'd love to get your feedback.

Happy Mask Day!


1 comment:

  1. The masks are cool how many did you make and did you save the fibreglass moulds.