On November 1, 1959, the day after Halloween, Jacques Plante of the Montreal Canadiens revolutionizes hockey by donning a facemask, the first NHL goaltender to do so in a regular-season game. Plante wears the custom-made fiberglas mask after suffering a badly cut nose and lip on a first-period shot by the New York Rangers’ Andy Bathgate. The Canadiens win, 3-1, and Plante decides to use the facemask regularly.
“It’s the coming thing in the game,” said Montreal coach Toe Blake. “The time will come when they’ll have an even better mask than Plante’s and it’ll be standard equipment for goalies.”
Plante, in his seventh season in the NHL, had the mask made after he suffered fractured cheekbones in games. A Montreal hospital made a skin-tight plaster mold of his face, then turned it over to experts to construct the mask. Before he used the mask in a regular-season game, Plante tried it in practices and exhibitions.
In 1930, goaltender Clint Benedict of the Montreal Maroons used a protective cover over his nose and part of his face. But it obscured his vision on low shots, forcing him to abandon the crude shield, according to the Pro Hockey Hall of Fame website.
True to Blake’s prediction, masks for goaltenders became standard equipment. The last goaltender to not wear one was the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Andy Brown in 1974.
Plante, one of the best goaltenders in NHL history, was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1978. He died in 1986.
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