FROM THE Heritage Minutes COLLECTION
A part of our heritage...
Jacques Plante broke with tradition and changed the face of hockey forever.
Jacques Plante was to become one of the National Hockey League's greatest goalies, but was never one to rest on his laurels. He would dare to be different and go against the game's "macho" traditions by wearing a protective face mask, and developed a very personal style of play in front of and behind the net.
The turning point came in a game at Madison Square Garden on November 1, 1959, when a powerful slap shot shattered his nose. After receiving a total of 200 stitches on his face, he decided he had paid his dues to the gods of the national sport and stubbornly held his own against coach Toe Blake, who believed a player had to "fight for his life" to play well. That same night, with his face sewn from nose to lip, Plante agreed to return to the ice only if he was allowed to wear his mask, which he had worn in practices since 1955. This cream coloured mask drew a mix of criticism, admiration and wisecracks. Nevertheless, the team won by a score of 4 to 1. To keep wearing the mask [which he was supposed to give up once he was healed], Plante outdid himself by leading the team on an 11-game winning streak and eventually winning the Stanley Cup the following spring.
A resourceful and stubborn individual, Plante did not fit hockey stereotypes. The oldest of 11 children in a Shawinigan family during the Depression, he knew how to cook, sew, and knit. A sports columnist remembered seeing him in goal for the Montréal Royals at age 22 wearing a toque and jersey he had knitted himself.
Plante produced the masks himself. He made several models for himself and fellow players, constantly improving their strength, visibility and lightness. In the 1960s and 1970s, protective masks with captivating graphics flourished in the NHL. Today, players wearing helmets and visors are a common sight.
But even his masks could not outshine Plante's free-ranging style in the goal crease. The mask made Plante more confident, daring and astute. He had a very unique technique of moving out of the crease to cut down angles and stop pucks or pass them to his defencemen behind the "cage." In various ways, Jacques Plante managed to influence and shape the rules of the game. His innovative spirit gave hockey a new face.
Heritage Minute Cast