It was not until 1959, that the goalie mask became mainstream in the NHL. In November of 1959, Montreal Canadiens goaltender Jacques Plante was hit in the face with a shot from New York Rangers forward Andy Bathgate. Plante who had previously worn a mask in practice was told by Canadiens coach Toe Blake that he would not permit Plante to wear a mask during actual games. As the story goes, during this November 1, 1959 game vs. the Rangers Plante refused to go back on the ice until Blake allowed him to wear the goalie mask. Blake ultimately caved and Jacques Plante went on a lengthily unbeaten streak of 18 games. Blake then told Plante to discard the mask (based on a previous agreement). On a game vs. the Detroit Red Wings, Plante did not wear the goalie mask and the unbeaten streak was snapped as the Canadiens lost to the Wings 3-0. Jacques Plante would go on to wear the mask for the remainder of his career. He developed and tested a number of versions of the mask with the assistance of other experts. He also experimented with the mask/helmet combo as used by many of today’s goaltenders. Jacques Plante was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1978.
The innovation of the goalie mask while credited to Jacques Plante, was actually used prior to 1959. A fiberglass fencing mask was used in February 1927 by Queen’s University netminder Elizabeth Graham and in 1929/30 Montreal Maroons’ goaltender Clint Benedict wore a Hannibal-Lecter-like leather version to protect a broken nose.
Today the goalie mask is a mandatory piece of equipment. In this day and age, the goalie mask is not only used for protection but to share pieces of the ‘tenders personality with some pretty amazing paint jobs and designs. They say that a most goalies walk to the beat of a different drum and this just might be true.
The Hockey Fanatic presents:
Top 20 Goalie Masks of All-Time
- Gerry Cheevers – Boston Bruins – the hockeyfanatic.com lists the “scarface” mask as the greatest goalie mask of all-time. Everytime Cheevers was hit in the face he would add another scar to his goalie mask. Pretty cool idea if you ask us.
- Grant Fuhr – Edmonton Oilers – Gushing Oil. One of the greatest and perhaps most underrated goalies of all-time. Grant Fuhr had a number of great masks but our favorites stem from Fuhr’s years with the Dynasty-Oilers.
- Gary Bromely – Vancouver Canucks – Skelator Mask. One of the coolest masks of all-time, Gary Bromely donned an eerie skull mask as a member of the Vancouver Canucks in the late seventies and early eighties. Brilliant.
- Gilles Gratton – New York Rangers – The Lion Sleeps Tonight. Some label this as one of the greatest masks ever. We think that it is pretty cool too and it makes our top five. The Lion mask worn by Gilles Gratton in the seventies was way ahead of its time.
- Gilles Meloche – Cleveland Barons – Coat of Arms Mask. Gilles Meloche had some pretty cool masks as you will see with his multiple appearances on our list, but the goalie mask that stands out is the mid-seventies mask he wore as a member of the NHL’s Cleveland Barons.
- Ed Belfour – Chicago Blackhawks – The Eagle. Ed Belfour was a colorful goaltender winning his only Stanley Cup in 1999 with the Dallas Stars. He is famous for his Eddie the Eagle goalie mask. It is a pretty cool mask and is featured within the top ten of our favorite goalie masks of all-time.
- Roman Turek – St. Louis Blues – The Number of the Beast – Iron Maiden mask. Roman Turek honors his favorite band Iron Maiden with a tribute to Eddie with his Number of the Beast Mask that he wore while with the St. Louis Blues.
- Stephan Valiquette – New York Rangers – Spiderman Mask – there were a couple of variations of Valiquette’s Spiderman goalie mask, but this one is our favorite. Stan Lee must be proud. Great mask!
- Andy Moog – Boston Bruins – The Big Bad Bruin Mask – Andy Moog entered the NHL in the 1981 playoffs with the Edmonton Oilers where, as a rookie, Moog backstopped the Oilers to a major upset of the Montreal Canadiens. Moog was eventually traded from Edmonton to Boston where he wore this very cool bear mask.
- Gary Simmons – California Golden Seals – Cobra Mask. A classic, of course it has to make the top ten on our list.
- Murray Bannerman – Chicago Blackhawks – Blackhawk Mask. One of the most unique goalie masks of all time, Bannerman played with the Hawks in the eighties, his hockey card was a favorite amongst hockey fans due mainly to his cool Blackhawk mask.
- Curtis Joseph – Toronto Maple Leafs – Cujo Mask. Curtis Joseph had some of the best masks ever, from his days with the Blues, Oilers, Leafs and RedWings. You shouldn’t be surprised that Cujo is featured on our top 20 goalie masks list with multiple listings.
- John Garrett – Vancouver Canucks – Black is beautiful. We love the black, orange and yellow color combination for the Canucks. John Garrett’s mask is a classic. We still feel bad for Garrett not winning the All-Star Game MVP in 1983 when Wayne Gretzky stole the honor from John Garrett with a dominating third period performance.
- Ken Dryden – Montreal Canadiens – Bleu, Blanc et Rouge – Ken Dryden is one of our favorite all-time goalies so it makes sense that his famed Canadiens mask makes our list.
- Marty Turco – Dallas Stars – Dragons are a Goalies Best Friend Mask. Turco had some pretty cool goalie masks in his day. His best masks were seen as a member of the Dallas Stars.
- Curtis Jospeh – Edmonton Oilers – Oil Gush. Cujo had some classic masks. This one is probably one of the greatest Edmonton Oilers goalie masks of all time. ‘Nuff said.
- Mike Palmateer – Washington Capitals – Stars & Stripes Mask. We always liked Mike Palmateer’s style. He had a couple of great masks as a member of the Washington Capitals and the Toronto Maple Leafs. His famed stars and stripes mask from his days as a Capital make our list of top goalie masks.
- John Vanbiesbrouck – Florida Panthers – Cat Mask. The Beezer had some solid masks over his career. The one that stands out is his Cat Mask with the Florida Panthers. Great colors and an overall classic mask.
- Gilles Meloche – Minnesota North Stars – Green & Gold. Gilles Meloche played for his fair share of teams and had his fair share of goalie masks. His simple yet stylish North Stars mask is a true classic.
- Jacques Plante – Montreal Canadiens – the one that started it all. Of course we have to include Jacques Plante’s original goalie mask. It is a piece of hockey history.There you have it hockey fans. The Hockey Fanatics list of the top 20 goalie masks of all-time. Disagree with our picks? Feel free to drop us a line with which goalie masks are missing. If we get enough responses we will incorporate your feedback into an updated list.
Check out these other resources for some classic goalie masks: