The goalie mask come a long way since being first seen in a National Hockey League game in 1959. It used to be just a protective piece of equipment, but it’s become a work of art.
There has been evidence of goalies wearing protective mask as early as 1927 when Queen’s University goalie Elizabeth Graham wore a mask to protect her teeth and 1930 when Montreal Maroons goalie Clint Benedict donned a half-mask after taking a shot to the face.
However, the mask came into the forefront when Hall of Fame-goalie Jacques Plante. The Montreal netminder had worn the mask in practice since 1956, but his coach Toe Blake didn’t allow him to wear it during a game.
All of that changed on Nov. 1, 1959 after Plante was hit in the nose by a hard shot from the New York Rangers’ Andy Bathgate three minutes into the game. Plante wanted to try the mask, but Blake once again refused until Plante said he would refuse to play unless he could wear it. (There were no backup goalies at the point and the Canadiens would have to forfeit.)
Plante came back into the game and Montreal ended up winning 3-1, which started a long winning streak. Plante played one more game without the mask at the behest of Blake, and the Habs lost to Detroit. There was no issue with the mask as Plante wore it in every subsequent game.
The mask Plante wore was a fiberglass mask that didn’t do much in the way of style, but it was effective for an early model. He did say the mask saved his life once when he was a goalie later in his career with the St. Louis Blues in a playoff game against the Boston Bruins.
The mask slowly became integrated into the goaltender’s regular equipment. Andy Brown was the last goalie to not wear a mask in 1974 as the concerns over visibility were alleviated by the protection the masks afforded.
Most masks looked plain and had the Jason Voorhees-look and were plain before Boston goalie Gerry Cheevers put stitches on his helmet.
The stitches would be added each time a puck hit his mask and would serve as a reminder on what would’ve happened had he not worn a mask.
The Flyers’ Doug Favell was the first to introduce bright colors to his mask, and was the first to change them up whenever he changed teams. New York Islanders’ goalie Chico Resch then hired an artist four years later to do some artwork for his mask.
Goalies had the regular helmet and birdcage mask until the fiberglass masks with cages took off in the 90s. That’s when masks got all kinds of artsy.
Goalies like Ed Belfour, Curtis Joseph, Felix Potvin and Martin Brodeur embraced the goalie mask as a canvas to express themselves. One of my favorite masks was Patrick Lalime and his Marvin the Martian design.
However, the masks in recent years have gotten really good. We’ve got James Reimer and his Optimus Reim mask, Brent Johnson had a sweet Led Zeppelin lid and other good ones. There’s also the great masks that have come out over the last couple of weeks.
Cam Talbot may not see a lot of ice time behind Henrik Lundqvist, but he’s got an awesome Ghostbusters mask. Anaheim’s Frederik Andersen put a new spin on the old brick wall standard by adding a LEGO twist to it. However, Andersen not only has to fight teammate John Gibson for the starting job, but for the coolest mask on the team.
Gibson may be young, but he channels his old-school gamer with this tribute to Pac-Man. This is my favorite of the new masks that have been released this summer. I do like the touch of the old Mighty Ducks logo as Pac-Man.
Today we have the pleasure to present the new mask for Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson. And this mask is something totally unique… it is transformed into the classic video game Pac-Man… and instead of the yellow eating dot, here it is a Ducks mask eating the smaller dots, so let us introduce the Pac-Duck mask! A nice tribute to the classic video game.
Hey Pac-Duck, watch out for the ghosts!
I can only imagine what the future holds in goalie mask art. Could we have superheroes, Doctor Who (a request that I’d like to see) or some other stuff. It’s come a long way from the beginning.
Special thanks to USA Hockey Magazine for their nice timeline history that I used as a reference.
Dan Mount is the editor of The Hockey Sentinel. He also covers the Rangers, Islanders and Devils for NY SportScene.com. He can be found on Twitter @DanMountSports.