From simple face protectors to works of art, goalie masks have seen quite the evolution since Nov. 1, 1959, the night Montreal Canadiens goalie Jacques Plante skated onto the Madison Square Garden ice with a plain white shield.
The very first mask with a design was an instrument of protest. Boston Bruins goalie Gerry Cheevers was struck in the mask during practice in the late 1960s and left the ice only to be ordered back out, but not before he had a trainer draw a set of stitches on his mask where he’d been hit. Every hit thereafter got the same treatment, and in doing so, Cheevers created a new way of thinking of these blank canvases.
Goalie masks through the years have ranged from intimidating to whimsical to touching to downright terrifying. Here are some of the most memorable. Share your favorites, especially those not included here, in the comments.
1959: Montreal Canadiens goalie Jacques Plante wore a mask in a game for the first time on Nov. 1 after taking a puck to the face.
1970s: Ken Dryden’s mask became a symbol of excellence when he helped the Montreal Canadiens win six Stanley Cup championships.
1970s: Gilles Gratton depicted a ferocious, roaring tiger on his New York Rangers mask. “Grattoony the Loonie” took it up a notch by growling and hissing at opponents when they got too close.
1970s: California Golden Seals goalie Gary Simmons’ memorable artwork played off his nickname “The Cobra.”
1970s: Wayne Stephenson incorporated the Philadelphia Flyers logo into the eye holes of his mask, to disconcerting effect.
1978: Giles Meloche wore this intricate and colorful coat of arms mask for the Cleveland Barons.
1978: One of the most recognizable of all-time, Gerry Cheevers’ mask with the Boston Bruins was marked with the stitches he would have gotten had he not been wearing it.
1980s: Murray Bannerman’s stylized mask incorporated Chicago Blackhawks design elements.
1981: Gary Bromley, a 160-pound goaltender for the Vancouver Canucks, rocked the “Skull & Bones” mask as a nod to his nickname “Bones.”
1980: Mike Palmateer’s stars-and-stripes design accented the Washington Capitals uniforms.
1981: Four-time Stanley Cup winner Grant Fuhr of the Edmonton Oilers was one of the last to wear the old-style molded masks without a cage.
1982: As players begain to modify mask construction to their preferences, Tony Esposito of the Chicago Blackhawks added a cage to further protect his eyes.
1990s: Andy Moog went for a full-on bear to complement the Boston Bruins nickname.
1990: The shark-mouth cage worn by Brian Hayward of the San Jose Sharks was an inventive design.
1997: Glistening gold paint highlighted the Florida Panther on John Vanbiesbrouck’s headgear.
1998: Olaf Kolzig took his nickname “Godzilla” and applied it to his mask for the Washington Capitals.
2000: The nickname trend continued when Curtis “Cujo” Joseph of the Toronto Maple Leafs sported artwork inspired by the Stephen King story.
2002: Speaking of nicknames, Ed Belfour had his “Eddie the Eagle” design interpreted for a number of teams he played for, including the Dallas Stars.
2011: Bringing it all full circle, Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens paid tribute to innovator Jacques Plante with his Heritage Classic mask.