NHL marks 50th anniversary of goalie mask

Sunday, 11.1.2009 / 10:49 AM ET / Features
Share with your Friends

NHL marks 50th anniversary of goalie mask
Martin Brodeur sports of the NHL's classic mask designs.
TORONTO – November 1, 1959 became one of the landmark moments in NHL history when Hall of Fame goaltender Jacques Plante revolutionized his position – and the sport – by donning a facemask. Plante's mask, in addition to protecting the face, provided a canvas for what has become a work of art and an avenue of personal expression for today's goaltender.

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the goalie mask, the NHL Network will air a one-hour special on Sunday, November 1 at 7:00 p.m. ET. "50 Years Behind the Mask" will take viewers from that day 50 years ago at Madison Square Garden when Plante donned the mask through to today when most goaltenders use their masks as a showcase of endearing symbols, personality and intricate details.

At approximately 7:10 p.m. on November 1, 1959, during a Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers match-up at Madison Square Garden, a shot by Rangers forward Andy Bathgate struck Montreal goaltender Jacques Plante in the face. The shot hit Plante at 3:06 of the first period.

After having his face stitched up by the doctor, Plante returned to the game about 21 minutes later. This time though, he was wearing a mask, becoming the first NHL goaltender to appear in a game with a mask. The Canadiens won the game 3-1.

Timeline of the Goalie Mask Design
1968-69 Season: Boston Bruins goaltender Gerry Cheevers became the first goaltender to decorate his mask. Cheevers was struck in the mask during practice and in an attempt to defy head coach Harry Sinden and get out of practice, Cheevers had trainer John Forristall draw stitches on his mask with a black marker, indicating where the puck would have cut him.

October 31, 1972: Doug Favell of the Philadelphia Flyers had his mask painted orange, resembling a pumpkin for a Halloween game against Los Angeles, making it the NHL's first painted goalie mask. The 'pumpkin' mask paved the way for Favell's future mask, an orange and white 'star-burst' design.

1973-1974 Season: After being traded from the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Detroit Red Wings on January 18, 1974, goaltender Jim Rutherford needed to update his blue mask. He commissioned goalie-mask designer, Greg Harrison, to paint it white, but what Harrison returned to Rutherford before a morning skate was a white mask with Red Wing logos above the eyes. Rutherford didn't like the mask but with a game that evening, he had no choice but to wear the first mask with a painted design.

April 7, 1974: Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Andy Brown was the last goaltender to appear without a mask, playing with his face unprotected in a 6-3 loss to Atlanta.

1976-77 Season: Glenn "Chico" Resch of the New York Islanders is credited as the first goaltender to have an artistic design cover his full mask.

Resch's design had the Islanders' logo at the top, an island horizontally across the forehead as well as the letters 'N' and 'Y' on opposite cheeks.

It was painted by an art student, Linda Spinella, and it now resides in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Resch is currently the color commentator for Devils broadcasts on MSG Plus.