As crazy as it seems, the goalie’s mask was not a piece of standard equipment for a goalie until the 1960s. Imagine a 6 ounce puck flying at your face at 100 miles per or more, and sticks, skates, and arms flying near your face without anything to protect it!
In the early days of hockey, the first goalie mask was sported by Queen’s University’s Elizabeth Graham. In 1930, Clint Benedict created the first crude leather mask specifically for the purpose of protecting his broken nose. At the 1936 Winter Olympics, Teiji Honma, who minded the net for Japan, donned a mask similar to that worn by a catcher in baseball.
None of these individuals wore the masks full-time. In 1959, Jacques Plante was goaltending as a member of the Montreal Canadiens, when he was hit in the face by a shot from the opposing New York Rangers.
Plante received stitches for the injury, and informed his coach, Toe Blake, that he would not go back on the ice without being able to wear a mask. Blake had banned Plante from wearing the mask, fearing it would inhibit his vision. Because NHL teams at the time did not carry backup goaltenders on their rosters, Blake was forced to give in to Plante’s demands.
Many people laughed at and mocked Plante for his move. However, he want on a long unbeaten streak after putting the mask on, which ironically, was snapped when he was forced to remove it for one game. After that loss, the mask remained on Plante for the rest of his career.
In style, the mask was made completely of fiberglass. Interestingly, however, Jason Vorhees, the nefarious villain from the Friday the 13th series, is probably much more famous for having worn a mask very similar in style to Plante’s.
Although the fiberglass style met initial resistance, it soon became standard issue gear for every NHL goaltender.
This design, however, was criticized for not providing enough protection. Dominik Hasek, a dominant force in hockey for many years, used this type of helmet for the majority of his career, which ended in 2008.
The newest type of fiberglass mask distributes the impact of a puck much better and is used at just about every level of hockey. It may be made out of carbon fiber, fiberglass, or ultra-tough kevlar.
Now you know the basic history of goalie helmets! Aren’t you glad for the safety and protection they provide? Or perhaps you are the ultra-hardcore hockey type and you aren’t!
-Dan "The Wisconsin Hockey Fan"
Share with friends:March 07, 2012