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Great Hockey Stories

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1959 - Jacques Plante and the First Goalie Mask

Photograph of Jacques Plante holding his face mask

Jacques Plante holding his face mask. On the back of the photo is written: "Hiver 1960"
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Photograph of Clint Benedict, 1923

Clint Benedict, 1923
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On November 1, 1959, Canadiens' goaltender Jacques Plante wore his famous goalie mask for the first time in a league game. Before that he had only worn it in practice. A broken skull, jaw, nose and cheekbones led him to make this decision. Plante began working with Fiberglas Canada to make a moulded mask that would cover and protect his face. Shots to the face still hurt, but his skin remained uncut. When he first wore the mask at a game, he took everyone by surprise. Fans were startled at the sight because it broke with tradition.

Actually, Clint Benedict of the Montreal Maroons had worn a mask earlier, in the 1920s. But the leather and wire mask had made it difficult to play and so he only wore it once. This time, with Plante leading the way, other goalies gradually began to wear masks. Today it would be unthinkable to leave your face unprotected.

For the record, it was a woman, Elizabeth Graham, who was the first goalie to wear a mask (a wire fencing mask), in 1927.

Plante Hurt, Finishes Up With Mask

Jacques Plante, portant un masque protecteur, aide les Canadiens à l'emporter 3-1 contre les Rangers.

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