Saturday, May 3, 2014

ARTICLES - Million Dollar Mask

I love goalie masks.  There's just something about them that I am totally drawn to.  For years I have considered the mask the single most important innovation in the history of professional sports.  It literally changed the game back in the 60's and the rich history of this piece of equipment is celebrated to this day.

Goalie mask cards are a staple in the industry.  Once a fringe insert, they have become a yearly tradition for many collectors - including myself.  I enjoy seeing the new additions, cool looking photos and of course the killer lids.

I love masks so much that I would spend hours upon hours searching for close-up photos of goalie masks.  All eras, all players.  I loved learning more and more about the history of the mask.

With my profession in television, I was determined to create a documentary series on the subject (that's how much I wanted to celebrate it).  Of course, that's when I was pretty green in the industry and I ended up running around in circles as opposed to focused in one direction.

Think about it though.  A five-part series on the 50+ year history of the goalie mask.  From it's glorious (and crude) introduction back in 1959 all the way up to today's artistic masterpieces.  Who the key players were both on and off the ice.  What the most popular and recognizable masks are.  Who's careers were influenced by the mask.  And the folklore.  Mmmmmmmm.  Them's good eats.

But sadly it did not come to fruition.  And as the years have gone by so has the focus on the project.  I still think one day someone might carry the torch and put together one heck of a killer sports doc series.

One can dream.

So where am I going with all this?

Well, with my recent collection cleaning, I came across some neat articles on the goalie mask that I collected and kept.  Some have great photos, others some detailed information.

I found a couple single page items from magazines that I scanned and I just needed to share with you.

Jacques Plante - THE GUY when it comes to the start of the goalie mask story.  He was the first goaltender to regularly wear this protective equipment.  He had been using it in practice, but it wasn't until Andy Bathgate nearly took off his head with a slapshot that he put on the mask for good.

Teased for years after, he was pegged as a sissy, a wimp.  Can you believe it took years before a second goalie decided to regularly wear a mask.

Jacques was so influential and innovative that he eventually designed his own masks.  He then started to market them to the masses.  Here's one of his famous advertisements.

If that doesn't catch your eye....I don't know what will.

A million bucks.  In 1971 that would be a ton of cash.  And check out how much he was selling those lids for.  Hindsight.

What's interesting is that while the masks would reduce the stitches one would take to the face, it created a new problem - blowout.  Rather than cut you open, it would absorb the puck's force in such a way that it would explode your cheekbone upon impact.  Yikes.

There's a reason why the fibreglass masks were phased out in the 80's.

What a great piece of hockey history.

The second item also comes from a magazine.  When I saw the photo I thought it would make a great addition to the Ed Giacomin story.

I love this pic.  I picture him sucking on a towel to ease the numbness in his mouth.  Or maybe he's got a couple missing chicklets.

In all actuality, it's probably just a little slobber wipe.  Still.....

And it does say that he took a slapper from the feared Hull (Dennis).  So maybe there's some legitimacy after all.

Regardless, this is a keeper.  Part of my goalie mask collection/research. Something that I'll have with me for many years to come.


  1. I'd love to see a doc on the Goalie Mask. In your research you should have enough material for a book no?

    1. Other than doing first hand interviews, yes I did feel like I had enough material. But it was right at the apex of my research when a book on goalie masks came out. Saving Face: The Art And History Of The Goalie Mask.

      One of the authors, Gary Smith, is someone that I even had the opportunity to tak to. What an exciting time.

      To this day I still think there are a couple of "angles" that can be taken for an interesting doc and/or book.

      Thanks for the comment.