Saturday, May 12, 2012

Masked Men: The Phantom of the Crease

“There are a lot of very good goalies, there are even a fair number of great goalies. But there aren’t many important goalies. And Jacques Plante was an important goalie.” Ken Dryden

Today's vintage goalie mask, is THE vintage goalie mask. While Plante wasn't the first to wear a mask, (Clint Benidict did to protect a broken nose for 5 games), he was the first to introduce it as regular equipment and continued to work on and perfect the mask the rest of his career. 

Hmm...Clint's interesting first attempt.
The story goes...on November 1st, 1959 Jacques Plante skated into the crease to play the New York Rangers...3 minutes into the game he took a puck to the face, slicing a cut open that went from the corner of his mouth to the bottom of his nostril, and breaking his nose. 21 minutes later Jacques Plante emerged from the locker room wearing a mask that looked like it belonged as a prop on the Phantom of the Opera. 

The Habs won the game 3-1. Plante's coach make him promise that he'd discard the mask after the cut healed, he didn't and won 18 in a row. Finally Plante's coach made him take the mask off and they lost the game that night 3-0 against Detroit. The mask returned for good the next night, and the Habs won their 5th straight Stanley Cup that year.  The NHL would never be the same...

The Phantom of the Crease.
The era of the mask had begun, and no longer was it seen as a "sign of weakness" although some held out and never donned the signature piece of equipment, others saw it's usefulness.  Plante's impact on the game of hockey and especially his beloved position can not be overstated.  

Josh Harding pays tribute to the greats...there's Plante's above the eye.
The mask wasn't the only "first" or innovation he brought to the position and to the NHL.  He was the first goalie to play the puck outside of his crease, which would help aid defencemen.  He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1978, his number (1) was later retired by the Canadiens as well as being named the goaltender on their "Dream Team".  Plante would go on to become a mentor and idol for future goalies, and continue to work at perfecting and protecting the faces of sport's most important position.  He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1978.

Here are some more of his masks...a true innovator and icon.

HOF: The "Pretzel" Mask

HOF: Another classic
I'll leave you with one more picture.  One of my favorites of Plante or any goalie.  The picture says it all, the unbeatable concentrated stare, the posture, the mask...

This had to have been a terrifying sight for ANY shooter.

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