Jacques Plante's number takes its rightful place in the Bell Centre rafters.
When Jacques Plante brought the mask into the mainstream, little did he know how far netminders would take the trend. Indeed, in 1959 when Plante first donned what would become an iconic piece of hockey history, he wasn’t wearing it to be cool, nor was he preemptively staking a claim to the countless millions made off the Friday the 13th films.
While one can argue that had Plante not pioneered the mask someone else would have eventually as the need was quite prevalent, there’s little reason to take away from Plante’s contribution to the game or his career as a whole.
A true Hockey Hall-of-Famer (inducted in 1978), Plante likely could have been considered a builder in addition to a player, helping to make the game safer for subsequent generations of elite goalies. While his mask will never win any creativity awards (nor will Patrick Roy’s or any other incredibly generic and overrated ones in case you were expecting them on this list), here are the top 13 goalie masks of Habs history he had a hand in inspiring:
Ken Dryden of the Montreal Canadiens.
Masks may have become a fashion accessory to a certain extent, but more than that, the best ones are an extension of their owner’s personality. Perhaps this statement best applies to Ken Dryden, whose mask screams two things:
1) “I’m a superhero…”
2) “…with an incredibly bland personality.”
That isn’t to take away from Dryden’s accomplishments on or off the ice, as the former Member of Parliament more than earned his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1983. To this day, he remains the only goalie (and player) to have won the Conn Smythe Trophy before the Calder.
And the mask is undeniably beautiful in its simplicity and style.
Still, when the first thing that comes to mind when someone utters your name is you standing still and leaning on a stick, take it as a sign, dude.
Alex Auld, formerly of the Montreal Canadiens.
Alex Auld enjoyed a cup of tea with the Montreal Canadiens two seasons ago, signing on to be Carey Price’s backup. During that time, he established himself as a team player, acknowledging and accepting his role as…well, maybe “team player” is too strong of a term. “Team benchwarmer,” perhaps?
The first of several backups to Price to make this list, Auld handled the lack of ice time with grace, and even took the free time to pick up a few of his habits, like coming up with several interesting masks (who says a backup is brought in to mentor the starter and not the other way around?).
This mask pays homage to Habs goalies of the past in spectacular fashion, and as a result, Auld claims the 12th spot on this list.
Yann Danis, formerly of the Montreal Canadiens.
Yann Danis was once heralded as an up-and-coming goalie who had starting potential with the Habs. Unfortunately, he might have let all the praise go to his head, literally.
His mask portrays Montreal’s cityscape in all of its glory and showcases what became his niche as an NHL goalie—conceptualizing really great helmet designs, because it unfortunately doesn’t involve actual play in net.
He ended up playing a total of six games with Montreal the season following the last lockout before moving on to bigger and brighter things.
Unfortunately, those bigger and brighter things culminated in a 31-game stint with the New York Islanders back in 2008-2009, meaning showing up Rick DiPietro is as good as it got for Danis, putting his skills on par with those of just about anybody with two working knees.
He will most likely always be remembered for his time as an Ottawa Senator, but Ron Tugnutt did play 15 games for the Habs back in the mid-'90s. During that time, he acted as Patrick Roy’s backup and wore several masks, the best of which is arguably this one, which strays from the traditional historical motif of most Canadiens goalie helmets.
It’s a simple design, but there’s a certain coolness factor created by the splash effect, perhaps inspired by his play as a Hab.
Posting goals-against averages of 3.12 and 3.81 during his two seasons with Montreal, Tugnutt did more swimming on the ice than two-time Olympic gold medalist Alex Baumann, you know, were the latter ever to actually strap on some skates.
Needless to say, you know you’re in trouble when the more-famous backup to Patrick Roy is a guy nicknamed “Red Light.”
Another retro mask in a similar vein as Dryden’s, this one doesn’t try too hard. It captures the Habs color scheme perfectly, with some glitz added in for good measure.
Richard Sevigny is infamous for getting his name engraved on the Stanley Cup before ever playing a game, dressing as a backup during the 1979 championship series.
Somewhat tragically, that would be his only championship victory. Two years later, he at least earned some accolades, co-winning the Vezina Trophy with teammate Denis Herron.
Of course, it was during those playoffs that he allegedly said something to the effect that Guy Lafleur would put Wayne Gretzky “in his back pocket” (via SportsIllustrated.com) when the two teams met in the first round.
I’m not exactly sure what that means, but it did motivate the Edmonton Oilers to defeat Montreal in three straight games and effectively jumpstart the Oilers dynasty. So, Sevigny did majorly contribute to hockey in at least two ways (if you count the mask).
Carey Price makes his first entry on this list (a hint of things to come?) with this mask that he wore celebrating Montreal’s 100th-anniversary season.
Displaying famous jersey numbers and a stylized cityscape, it’s the perfect marriage of all things Habs, old and new.
Unfortunately, just like Price during the playoffs, its timing is a little off as records indicate he wore the mask during the 2009-2010 season (via canadiens.nhl.com), one season after the team’s actual 100th season in 2008-2009.
Unless, of course, we’re talking the 100th anniversary, which took place in December 2009, in which case Price was right on the money. Pun shamefully intended. My apologies.
Peter Budaj of the Montreal Canadiens.
If only current backup Peter Budaj didn’t reveal that his most-recent mask design is actually an homage to Big Trouble in Little China, his mask would likely have placed higher.
In his defense, if he absolutely had to honor a second-rate, decades-old film revolving around a predominantly Asian neighborhood, at least he didn’t go with Showdown in Little Tokyo.
Something about the idea of Dolph Lundgren appearing on a hockey helmet before he adorns boxing attire just seems wrong, and seeing as he was the guy getting pummeled in Rocky IV, you know that’s not going to happen.
Budaj’s actually being modest to start off this video explaining it, saying he didn’t do anything special, when in reality he separates himself from the pack by going with a mask that seems to include a dragon right below the Habs logo. Not the most threatening-looking dragon out there, all things considered, but we are talking about a guy who lives off Price’s leftovers, after all.
Mathieu Garon, formerly of the Montreal Canadiens.
After what seemed like years of showing up to games in one of the ugliest masks known to man, in which his face appeared in the torso/groin area of a cartoony goalie straight out of the 1960s, Mathieu Garon finally got it right, right before he got traded to the Los Angeles Kings for Cristobal Huet.
Clearly, the competition in net was trying enough for Jose Theodore. The threat of Garon’s mask unseating his as the best in Montreal was too much to bear and caused his play to spiral further downward to the point that the Habs had no choice but to trade the poor guy. Clearly.
Wearing this nifty little number back in 2003-2004, Garon even went so far as to respect Anglophone fans by going the bilingual route in regard to the transcription at the bottom. No idea what it says personally, but it must have really freaked Theodore out. “Tu perds tes cheveux.” Maybe?
Jose Theodore, formerly of the Montreal Canadiens.
Prior to joining the Florida Panthers and wearing a mask that depicts his family as panthers, and more importantly, his wife as a scantily clad panther, Jose Theodore’s signature helmet brought something fierce that few since have been able to replicate: what seems to be a pair of awe-inspiring, vicious gargoyles watching over Montreal.
He eventually took that design with him to the Colorado Avalanche, and later showcased different versions clearly inspired by that original one to the Minnesota Wild and Washington Capitals. If only his game showed that kind of consistency over the years.
Jaroslav Halak, formerly of the Montreal Canadiens.
Jaroslav Halak’s masks have a recurring theme, in that each seems to feature a bull. It’s almost as if he knew well in advance the circumstances surrounding his departure from Montreal, because we all know the best word to describe how that deal went down.
Of the many he wore as a Hab, it’s this mask that takes top spot in this humble writer’s opinion, which paints imaginative imagery of a bipedal, hockey stick-wielding bull about to rage through Montreal.
Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens.
One of Price’s most recent masks is his most visually stunning, and proves a mask can center around the Habs logo and still be impressive. What’s most effective about this one is the flames pattern, which gives it pop.
Price can really learn from this latest product of his imagination that a mask doesn’t need cowboys or Native Americans to work. Of course, he can really do himself one better and everyone else as well by focusing on his game instead of coming up with a new mask every month.
David Aebischer, formerly of the Montreal Canadiens.
There’s little denying David Aebischer’s Habs mask is quite similar to the one he wore with the Colorado Avalanche, but considering his nickname is “Abby,” it stands to reason the abominable snowman is more a reference to that than the team that drafted him.
Alternatively, it could just as easily be a reference to his abominable play while with the Habs. Methinks that with him embracing the yeti theme to the degree that he has, someone should sit him down and explain the definition of the word.
In any case, as bad as Aebischer was in Montreal, his helmet was just as beautiful. It represented perhaps the only Montreal goalie’s mask that stood a chance at striking fear in the hearts of opponents, even if he ultimately made them smile more than tremble with all the goals he let in.
Alex Auld, formerly of the Montreal Canadiens.
Alex Auld’s Ken Dryden-themed offering is everything a helmet should be:
1) Presumably protective
2) Simple upon first glance, but incredibly detailed upon closer inspection
3) Personalized (in this case, reflecting an obvious respect for Dryden and Roy and Plante on the other side via daveart.com)
4) Indicate in original fashion the team for which the goalie plays
5) Show up Price and his insane, over-the-top and exhausting efforts to come up with THE perfect mask
Auld may have only played one year for the Habs (and about one-sixth of a season in terms of minutes), but he obviously put his free time to constructive use. His time with the Habs may not have been especially memorable, but his masks will go down as some of, if not the absolute best in team history.