In hockey’s early days, if you took a puck to the kisser you got stitched up and put back on the ice. No goalie would dare wear a protective mask — fans considered it unmanly. Coaches worried their netminders would lose their courage. Reporters echoed these judgments in their stories.
But after stopping a hard wrist shot with his face early in the first period of a game against the Rangers in 1959, Montreal Canadiens goalie Jacques Plante refused to return without the crude, flesh-toned fiberglass mask he used in practice.
The press fussed at him, but Plante believed playing without a mask was like a skydiver jumping without a parachute. Plante’s ghoulish face cover went on to win over goalies, became an enduring symbol of the game and even evolved into a high-tech artistic statement for today’s goaltenders.