Plante’s first mask, a crude fibreglass model fashioned in Montreal, is held in the hand of the goaler himself.
Thursday marks the 48th anniversary of Canadiens goaltender Jacques Plante wearing a face mask into an NHL game for the first time, having been savagely cut by a backhander off the stick of New York Rangers’ Andy Bathgate. Plante simply told his coach, Toe Blake, that he wasn’t returning to action without it.
Plante revolutionized the game, while seriously getting under the skin of Blake, and goaltenders to this day, from the NHL to house leagues and even ball hockey, owe Jake the Snake a huge debt of thanks. Who knows how many injuries his trail-blazing prevented?
Below is a tribute to the historic event of Nov. 1, 1959 that took place on the ice of New York’s Madison Square Garden. Thanks to the National Hockey League’s public relations department for producing it:
And below is one of collector and Inside/Out friend Erle Schneidman’s favourite photos of Plante beneath a mask, this one a later-generation pretzel model. A great shot, too.