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Sports Then and Now



How NHL Goalie Masks Evolved – From a Joke 8

Posted on January 10, 2015 by Ashley Andrews
Gerry Cheevers was the first hockey goalie to give masks personality.

Gerry Cheevers was the first hockey goalie to give masks personality.

When NHL goalie Gerry Cheevers sarcastically rebelled against his coach in a 1968 Bruins practice, he unknowingly changed the face (literally) of hockey forever.

Cheevers admittedly faked a head injury in that practice after taking a shot to his then plain-white fiberglass mask in hopes of cutting practice short, which the eccentric goalie was apparently fond of. When his coach found him perfectly healthy in the locker room, he demanded Cheevers get back on the ice.

It was then that Bruins trainer John Forristall decided to add a little flair to Cheevers’ “injury.” Gerry and John jokingly cooked up the idea to draw a line of ten stitches across Cheevers’ mask where the puck hit, completely oblivious to the statement they were making. The joke stuck and by the end of the season Cheevers’ mask was covered in black stitches, heralding the evolution of the goalie mask beyond mere functionality.

Now known as the grandfather of modern mask design, Cheevers’ crude stitched mask served a dual purpose; protection and personality. Protective gear in the NHL before the 1960’s was, well, irrelevant. Goalies almost never wore masks in games, and those who did were often scrutinized when masks became more popular. Cheevers’ inaugural design highlighted the importance of protective equipment (especially after the current Hall of Famer said it made him a braver and better goalie).

The stitched mask brought another unintended element to the ice. For the first time hockey was given a shot of creativity. Goalies especially saw an outlet to show whom the man behind the face-embalming mask was. Read the rest of this entry →

The Hockey Mask 50 Years Later: Not Required, But Never Without 83

Posted on October 29, 2009 by Scott Weldon
Jacques Plante wore a mask for the first time on November 1, 1959.

Jacques Plante wore a mask for the first time on November 1, 1959.

Ken Dryden in his book THE GAME spent a chapter explaining why goalies were not regular hockey players. They dressed differently, they played differently, they were different. While the rest of a goaltenders teammates are skating around passing and shooting a puck, stick handling, moving, the goalie sits and waits. He does nothing but wait to be assaulted from all angles with a vulcanized rubber puck shot at him at over a hundred miles an hour.

Read the rest of this entry →

  • Vintage Athlete of the Month

    • Rusty Staub: A Man For All Ages
      April 8, 2024 | 1:26 pm
      Rusty Staub

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month is a former major league baseball player who came into the game as a teenager and stayed until he was in his 40s. In between, Rusty Staub put up a solid career that was primarily spent on expansion or rebuilding teams.

      Originally signed by the Colt .45s at age 17, he made his major league debut as a 19-year old rookie and became only the second player in the modern era to play in more than 150 games as a teenager.

      Though he hit only .224 splitting time between first base and rightfield, Staub did start building a foundation that would turn him into an All-Star by 1967 when he finished fifth in the league with a .333 batting average.

      Read more »

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