Monday, November 1, 2010

The Masked Marvel : Nov. 1st, 1959

There are certain dates in hockey history which seem to survive the changing of time from one generation to the another. It could be a Stanley Cup victory, a major trade, or an achievement which shatters existing standards.

For goaltenders one such date is a November evening in 1959, when one of their own became a pioneer. His revolutionary action  starting a trend that would be deemed a significant accomplishment.

November 1959
 The goalie was Jacques Plante of the Montreal Canadiens. It was his insistence to seek protection from flying rubber aimed at the most vulnerable part of his body - the face - that made him the focus of attention.

The opportunity to introduce his mask to an NHL audience came in New York's Madison Square Garden on November 1, 1959. After taking an Andy Bathgate shot flush on the nose, Plante sought medical attention for his injuries. While in the infirmary, Jacques Plante made a decision that would forever change the attitude of those who thought wearing a mask was a sign of weakness. Many were of the opinion that a masked goalie was an individual who showed fear. Plante, being a master of his craft, knew otherwise.

With his mask firmly in place, Plante had cleared the final hurdle standing in his way, coach Toe Blake. The Habs bench boss wanted nothing to do with his starting goalie being a masked crusader. Blake, in the past, vehemently refused to allow Plante to wear facial protection. However, with no alternative on that Sunday evening, Blake had to submit to Jake "The Snake" Plante's demands.

The Warrior was now fully equipped to go to battle.

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