November 1, 1959. The Montreal Canadiens are playing the New York Rangers. Right winger Andy Bathgate of the New York Rangers caught Jacque Plante right on the nose with a strong shot cutting him open.
After being patched up in the infirmary, Plante laid down the law to his coach Toe Blake. Plante told him he wouldn’t return in net if he couldn’t wear his mask. Blake refused, but without a backup goaltender he agreed to his demands.
“He came out wearing this gizmo on his face,” Bathgate recalls. "We took one look at it and said, ‘what the hell is that?’”
Plante admitted the mask was uncomfortable because of the sweat and heat it generated. Experimenting since training camp, Plante worked with a Montreal businessman to design the fiberglass mask.
The press criticized Plante, but he remained unfazed. “When I take it off, I’ll also take off my skates,” he said. “In other words, I’m wearing it now until I retire.”
The Hannibal Lector-like mask wasn’t the prettiest one but it got the job done. He was taunted about his manhood and the mask’s helpfulness.
Plante proved the critics wrong when the Habs had a record of 10-0-1 in the first month. He also won the Vezina Trophy during the 1959-1960 season with a GAA of 2.54.
Enjoy this heritage video of Jacques Plante.