With the cold weather setting in, the first snowfall here yesterday, and our dark, dark mornings before the time change, I was looking for something about November 1st to celebrate. Let’s face it, the honeymoon period of the season start-up is over, and we are now into what can be gruelling hockey schedules for the next couple e of months.
But, remarkably, November 1st marks an anniversary of something that as Hockey Moms I think we can all celebrate. On November 1st, 1959, Jacques Plant of the Montreal Canadiens wore a goalie mask for the first time during regular season, forever changing the future of hockey equipment for goalies. Now, granted, the goalie mask looked more like a moulded spatula than a modern day goalie mask, but I still thank the Lord that Jacque had the courage to be the first to sport a mask despite pressure from his coach to do otherwise. Really, can you imagine the added stress to a Goalie mom if they not only had to worry about their child stopping pucks, but also the threat of their son or daughter taking a puck to the head? It’s almost inconceivable to think about such disregard for safety now, but back then it was a very different story.
Let’s reflect on the conditions provoking Plante to wear the mask in the first place. Though he had been practicing with a mask since around 1956, his then head coach Toe Blake did not allow him to wear it during regular play, believing it to make him complacent (maybe I’m not getting it, but I’m prone to think that not being fearful of losing an eye would lead to better and les complacent goaltending…but that’s just me). Then, during a game on November 1st, 1959, a shot broke Plante’s nose causing him to head to the dressing room for stitches. Though Plante had to return to the game because they had no other goalie to take his place, he refused to return to the ice without his mask. Coach Blake was NOT happy. A deal was then struck between Plant and Blake allowing him to wear the mask this time, but had to discard it once his nose had healed. After a 3-1 victory over the New York Rangers, Plante went on in the following days to refuse to play without the mask. As the Habs kept winning, Plante demonstrated that the mask did not affect his performance. The mask became less of an issue for Coach Blake, and Plante continued to wear the mask that year leading his team to their fifth straight Stanley Cup. Over the years, Plante tested many styles of masks, including the helmet/mask combo that is in use by goalies across the world today.
So, even though the days are getting shorter and my kids are crashing today after the sugar high obtained from Halloween candy, today we can all be thankful for the courage and innovation of Jacques Plante. Because of him, our own kids are a whole lot safer on the ice.