We Canadians are hardy, hearty and happy to mix it up in the corners. We hike in the company of mountain lions, we swim where there be killer whales and we eat hot dogs from a cart on the street. But while we’re a little zany, we’re not completely insane. Or at least, we were, until 1959 when Jaques Plante decided that another broken nose was one too many, and in a move that would revolutionize hockey and the horror film genre forever, started wearing the most sensible piece of safety equipment in sports, one that frankly came about 30 years after it probably should have.
It’s the Goalie Mask, andIt Came From Canada!
The funny thing about Plante’s mask is that it was met with such contempt from the coaches in the league that Plante was actually forbidden from wearing it. It was only after he defied his boss and started a legendary winning streak that he was allowed to continue.
Today, the goaltender mask has evolved from a single piece of fiberglass, through a helmet and cage combination, and back to to a fiberglass shell/cage combo. Over the years, it’s been something of a personal billboard, allowing goalies to express themselves like no other player in sports can, and while the safety has increased, it’s come at the expense of some the artistic possibility inherent in a smooth blank canvas.
Some modern designs stand out, like Curtis Joseph’s Mad Dog, but lately the current trend has been an overly busy mish-mash of colours and lines that seem to resemble graffiti more than anything else.
We preferred the old-school style, so here’s a gallery of some classic goaltender masks from the days of yesteryear.