It was November 1, 1959. The Montreal Canadiens were facing off against the New York Rangers. The Canadiens’ netminder, Jacques Plante, was struck square in the face with a slapshot from Rangers center Andy Bathgate. The force of the puck opened Plante’s face like a piñata as well as broke his nose. He was taken to the locker room where he was given nine stitches. Being a grown-ass man, Plante immediately returned to the ice but this time he was changing the game of hockey forever because he was wearing this:
Having been struck in the face a few times before, Plante had the mask created specifically for his face. It was made from fiberglass and resin. He had worn it in a few practices but his coach, Toe Blake, refused to let him wear it during a game. The coach was afraid Plante’s vision would be too limited to be effective if he wore the mask. After being stitched up during the game against Montreal, Plante told Blake that he wouldn’t return to the ice without a mask. At the time, NHL teams did not carry backup goaltenders. Not wanting to forfeit the game, Blake caved and Jacques Plante wore the game’s first goalie mask out onto the ice.
The Canadiens won that game 3-1 and, in no doubt because of the mask, they went on an 18 game winning streak. Blake hated the mask the whole time and somehow convinced Plante to go maskless in a game against Detroit on March 8, 1960. The Canadiens lost that night, 3-0. The following night, the mask returned for good. The Canadiens went on to win their fifth straight Stanley Cup.
Pour some out for Jacques today, gang!