The goalie mask: a piece of art that saves lives!
Shin guards, shoulder pads, gloves and jock straps - critical equipment for protecting players in a tough contact sport like hockey. To many, a mask seems an obvious way to protect a goalie's face when a puck comes flying in his or her direction at 100 km/h. But until relatively recently NHL goalies didn't seem to agree.
Jacques Plante was the first goalie to sport a mask during NHL games. He started with a piece of fibreglass moulded to the shape of his face. At first, he was only allowed to wear the face cover during practice. His coach changed his mind when a puck slashed Plante's face three minutes into a game against the Rangers on Nov. 1, 1959. That cut added to Plante's total of 200 career stitches.
It took a while for the other goalies in the league to follow suit; they initially accused Plante of being afraid of the puck and complained that masks limited the field of vision. One by one, they realized the merit of a mask in preventing broken noses, chipped teeth and stitches.
Goalie masks have undergone several updates over the years. The original prototype was a one-piece fibreglass creation that fictional serial killer Jason Voorhees of the Friday the 13th series of horror films made famous. That changed to a helmet and cage combination and eventually to the fibreglass model that goaltenders now wear.
Today, a mask is more than protection. It's a work of art designed to intimidate and maybe even distract opponents. Just think of Martin Biron of the New York Islanders, whose mask is a tribute to the Canadian outdoors, or Vancouver Canuck Roberto Luongo, who rocks a Johnny Canuck character on his helmet.
Some think goalies are crazy, willingly risking injury every time a puck comes their way. It takes a lot of guts - or maybe just a really good helmet.