The first masked man between the pipes was actually a woman who played for Queens University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada in 1927.
Her name was Elizabeth Graham and she wore a fencing mask when she took to the ice reportedly because her father had invested a lot of money to give her a nice set of teeth and wasn’t about to let them be knocked out during a hockey game.
Clint Benedict, a goalie for the Montreal Maroons in 1930, after suffering damage to his face in a game against the Boston Bruins, wore bulky protective head gear so his broken nose had time to heal
In 1936 during the Olympics Japanese goal tender Teiji Honma wore a wire mask like a baseball catcher.
Other goalies in various leagues around the world had experimented with different types of gear to save face, literally.
The most infamous and true innovator of the goalie mask known to the world, as he fashioned it out of fibreglass, was Jacques Plante. He donned his creation for the first time on Nov. 1, 1959, after being cut and refusing to play if he could not wear his mask.
Goalies everywhere are grateful for this innovation, and now not only is the mask protective gear but a work of art.
These are my top ten Toronto Maple Leafs goalie masks and a little about the men behind them. Enjoy!
Felix “The Cat” Potvin was drafted in the second round (31st overall) by Toronto in 1990 NHL entry draft.
He played with them from 1991-1999 amassing 160 wins and 12 shutouts.
He helped Toronto make the playoffs four years in a row from 92-93 to 95-96, and he took them to back-to-back Conference finals in the first two of those seasons.
His mask was a definite representation of his play between the pipes with his cat like reflexes.
Though it was fairly plain in design it was very recognizable and was immortalized by McDonald's in a plastic miniature collectables, which many hockey fans may still have.
Jonas Gustavsson “The Monster,” though in his first season in the Blue and White, has endeared himself to Leaf fans.
Problems between the pipes have plagued Toronto lately and this guy definitely gives Leafs Nation some hope of having a solid puck stopper.
This 6’3” Swede has great lateral movement and a lightning-quick glove along with excellent coverage of the lower half of the net.
Though fairly plain, the mask has style.
Martin Gerber played with the Ducks, Hurricanes, Senators and finally 12 games for the Maple Leafs.
He won a Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2006 and in 60 games that year had a record of 38-14-6 with 3 shutouts, a .906 save percentage, and a 2.78 goals against average.
Gerber was only with Toronto for a very short time at the end of last season and truly it may have taken longer to make his mask than the time he spent between the irons for this team.
But this mask with a picture of Mike Palmateer’s mask painted on the side of it, was solid.
Terry Sawchuk played 21 seasons in the NHL for five teams and won 4 Stanley Cups. He won 447 regular season games and 54 playoff games for a total of 501 total wins.
He had 12 shutouts in the post season and 103 in the regular season, a record that stood until just recently when Martin Brodeur broke it.
Sawchuk was elected to three 1st team and four 2nd team All-Star teams and won four Vezina trophies
One of the best goal tenders of all time and a Hall of Famer Terry Sawchuk led the Leafs to their last Stanley cup in the 1966-1967 season.
Mike Palmateer was drafted in the 5th round 85th overall in 1974 by the Toronto Maple Leafs and played six seasons for the team taking them to the playoffs five of those years.
Though not big in stature, he played big between the pipes with his unorthodox style of goal tending. He rushed out towards players that were breaking in on him and his acrobatic antics wowed crowds.
His mask was a classic and anyone who saw him play knew when he donned that mask while wearing the Blue and White he was ready to give it all he had.
Michel Larocque was drafted in the first round sixth overall in 1972.
Bunny played only one full season out of three between the pipes while playing in Toronto.
He was best known for playing for rival the Montreal Canadiens who he was with for eight years before coming to Toronto.
His mask is another classic, with the name Bunny written down the middle of it, and it was a foreboding sight to see in goal for opposing players.
Curtis Joseph has played almost 20 years in the NHL for six different teams and had two stints in Toronto and is currently a free agent.
Some of his accomplishments include: playing in the playoffs 14 of the 19 seasons in the NHL, three All-Star appearances, IIHF Gold Medal and Olympic Gold Medal with Canada.
Nick named Cujo not for the dog in the Steven King novel but for the combination of the first two letters of his first and last name, though the two have seemingly intertwined.
The gaping mouth of a mad dog on his mask and the name Cujo on the side of it was and is still a solid goalie mask.
Doug Favell came into the league through the expansion draft in 1967-68 though was playing in Boston’s farm system at the time.
Favell played in parts of three seasons with Toronto in the early 70’s from 1973-1976.
In his first year with the Leafs, he played 32 games posting a record of 14-7-9 with a 2.7 1goals against average, the next year wouldn’t be as good and was eventually shipped to the Rockies.
His mask was plain but and not painted with all the high end graphics that are featured on most of the masks these days but as the saying goes sometimes less is more, and this mask is the epitome of that.
Vesa Toskala was drafted by the San Jose Sharks in the fourth round (90th overall) in the 1995 NHL entry draft. He was in their organization until 2007-08 when he began playing with Toronto.
The first two years with Toronto he played 119 games and was 55-42-17-4 with 3.00 goals against average and a .897 save percentage.
He has shown sparks of being the goalie the Leafs expected though has lacked consistency and his numbers have steadily declined.
This year has been disastrous, as he has fought injury after off-season surgery, and the team has been going through a rebuilding process.
His mask depicts demon-like skull face with mouth agape and gnarled fangs, truly a solid piece of art work which could have been the cover of any Iron Maiden album.
Andrew Raycroft was the 135th overall fifth round pick of the Boston Bruins in the 1998 NHL entry draft.
He won the Calder trophy in 2004 with Boston and in that year had a .926 save percentage and 2.06 goals against average in 57 games with a record of 29-18-9.
He played only one full season as the starter for the Leafs and posted nowhere near those numbers, the next season he played back up to the aforementioned Vesa Toskala.
His mask is the greatest in the history of the team because of all the players incorporated in its design along with attention to detail paying tribute to emblems throughout the team's existence.
Just thought you might want a closer look a couple of them, hope you enjoyed the show, happy holidays!
In case you didn’t know, Gabe Morency (formally of The Score) has launched his new website. Mark “The Hard Hitter” Ritter, my B/R counterpart, and I will be throwing down our Podcast “Get The Puck Out ” every Saturday from 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM.
Next show will be January 9th.
We’ll be giving you our opinion and taking your calls on the hottest topics in the hockey world.
The Live Podcast will be broadcast in studio from down town Toronto featuring some betting analysis, fantasy advice, trivia, team/player updates, and more puck talk than you can imagine.
Be sure to call in and let your opinion be known. Don’t miss it, puckheads!
You can catch Morency and “Get The Puck Out” at www.morencysports.com