You would think that when you make a living by preventing a hardened piece of vulcanized rubber from getting passed you, that your job and sole aim is to make sure to get in front of said piece of vulcanized rubber as it is being shot at you, coming off of the pallet of a hockey stick at ridiculous speeds… that you’d want to have as much protection as possible.
In today’s day and age it would be considering suicide, ludicrous and just plain insane for a hockey goalie to NOT wear a mask. It is no wonder that the younger generations scratch their heads in awe and look dumbfounded when you tell them that there was a time when hockey goalies DID NOT wear masks.
On November 1st, 1959 a shot from the New York Rangers Andy Bathgate, 3 minutes into a game versus the Montreal Canadiens and goaltender Jacques Plante changed the face of hockey forever. Bathgate’s shot broke Jacques Plante’s nose and while in today’s modern day hockey that would often mean that the game would be over for the injured player, in those days, you sucked it up and played on.
Of course this axiom was a little more difficult for goalies. After retreating to the dressing room for stitches, Plante re-emerged… wearing the Hockey Mask!
The notion was unheard of at the time, coaches and players went on record saying that a goalie couldn’t perform as well with a mask on because of diminished visibility and if Montreal coach Toe Blake had a back up goalie dressed that game you can be sure Plante would not have played, Blake was livid and furious at the idea of his goalie wearing a mask.
If Plante and the Canadiens did not go on to win 18 straight games we may never have the hockey masks we have today, if Plante wasn’t adamant in wearing a mask and if he wasn’t a hall of fame goalie we may never have had the hockey mask. For all of these reasons and quite simply because it changed the game of hockey, this is truly a Top 10 MOMENT.