Tag: goalie masks

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Chris Osgood’s retirement also marks the likely end of his distinct mask


Ever since Jacques Plante defied the NHL’s He-Man culture by donning a mask, people have taken notice of a netminder’s headgear. From the inventive stitching scheme worn by Gerry Cheevers to Gilles Gratton’s out-there tiger mask, many goalies are remembered for the creative designs that adorned their masks.

Artwork is really the only way to spot much personality in a goalie’s mask anymore, which seems fitting since most netminders share the same butterfly techniques on the ice. You can’t really blame goalies going with the modern framework of masks, however, because the bottom line is that they provide unprecedented (though not perfect) protection from the vulcanized rubber that can travel toward their heads.

Chris Osgood will be remembered for notching 401 wins and being the on-and-off starter for the dynastic Detroit Red Wings, but his retirement could also mean the end of his old school helmet. That’s something that the Toronto Star’s Denis Grignon discussed in this interesting story.

“We’d look at our reflection in the glass and think, ‘yeah, this is cool,’ ” reminisces Osgood about his time playing junior in Medicine Hat, about wearing the helmet and cat’s eye cage combo, which morphed into Bauer and Winwell versions in later years.


“I was always laid back,” said Osgood. “(Other goalies) would get their masks painted. I never wanted any attention on myself. And that’s what my helmet represented.”

Former Maple Leaf Glenn Healy, who wore The Helmet for his entire career until he retired in 2001, concurs.

“We weren’t one of those guys who gets his fancy little mask airbrushed with your superheroes on it,” says Healy, now a colour commentator with Hockey Night in Canada. “Dressing yourself up like some kind of rock star . . . you got KISS on your helmet? Give me a break. Just play the game.”

Sometimes it’s a matter of preference, but the article reveals that this particular fashion choice came with some pretty painful disadvantages. Grignon explains that while modern headgear is shaped to make pucks deflect off the head and face, Osgood and Healy’s preferred style absorbs the full impact of a shot. Healy admitted that he dealt with more than a hundred stitches because of that choice, while Dan Cloutier – one of its last proponents – said that Los Angeles Kings management asked him to change his mask for “insurance reasons.” (Cloutier’s career ended soon after anyway, but his problems weren’t related to his choice of headgear.)

Beyond “The Helmet” being a preference that produces extra pain, the nearly-obsolete model follows the path of other things that go out of circulation: replacement parts are hard to find. That created a “constant quest” for Healy and other users, who were forced to “scrounge” for parts at beer leagues and other atypical outlets.

Osgood apparently had a little better luck as he received masks and spare parts for various benefactors, with the Red Wings’ play-by-play guy Mickey Redmond even asking fans to help out. That being said, Osgood’s equipment situation was still a bit unusual.

And when the team masseuse remembered he had two HM30s in his garage back home in Moscow, Boyer promptly had them shipped.

“Yeah,” saids Boyer. “Ozzie finished his career with a helmet from the Red Army.”

While Craig MacTavish is known for being the last NHLer brazen enough to play without a helmet, Osgood might be the final high-level practitioner of “The Helmet.” It’s a bit sad to see something that unique go away, but considering the safety risks involved with wearing that type of mask, it might be better off as a relic of the past.

(H/T to Kukla’s Korner.)

Carey Price reveals his weird Jacques Plante mask for Heritage Classic

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There have been some odd and awesome masks in the history of the NHL, from the very basic one worn originally by Jacques Plante to Gerry Cheevers’ stitch design to Gilles Gratton’s phenomenal lion mask.

Carey Price has been very coy about the special goalie mask he’ll wear specially for the 2011 Heritage Classic, but he unveiled the Plante tribute designed by David Arrigo today. Elliotte Friedman explains that the eyes and mouth are supposed to be Plante’s while the hair and ears are designed to look like Price’s.

It’s a very odd looking mask, although Price and Arrigo have their hearts in the right place. NHL.com has a gallery of the mask from different angles (this post’s main image features one of those photos), but if you would like to see the mask in action, check out video footage of Price wearing it during the Montreal Canadiens’ practice today.

Poll: Should the NHL/NHLPA require players to wear visors?


As shots kept getting harder (and sailing higher) and players kept getting bigger and stronger, the NHL evolved to find ways to make the violent sport of hockey survivable enough for players to make it through lengthy regular seasons. Yet in a sport in which toughness (and some might even say masculinity) is always at the forefront – whether it be in scrums or the borderline insane act of placing your body in front of a 100 mph slap shot – almost every bit of added safety found some opposition.

Jacques Plante received plenty of grief when he became the first NHL goalie to don a primitive mask, even from his own head coach. Hockey players were so strongly resistant to wearing helmets that the league didn’t require players who already skated without helmets to don one. (Call it a “grandfather with a bloody nose” clause.)

Each time, there was at least some thought that such innovations would reduce the effectiveness of the players. For instance: people felt that a mask might hinder the peripheral vision of a netminder.

One of the most common debates regarding player safety comes in the form of whether or not the NHL should force its players to wear visors. Proponents of such a rule can boast obvious examples of athletes who suffered from disturbing eye injuries playing hockey. From Steve Yzerman to Al MacInnis to Bryan Berard and Mike Mottau (seen in this post’s photo), the sport has no shortage of cautionary tales in which a visor might have saved the day.

On the other hand, those who prefer to play without a visor say that they enjoy improved vision with their eyes exposed. Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber said just that when Josh Cooper asked him about Ryan Getzlaf’s gnarly sinus fracture injury.

Both sides have some reasonable arguments, so we thought we would ask: should the NHL require players to wear visors? And if so, should the league follow the formula created by the helmet requirements by allowing players who previously played in the NHL to be “grandfathered in” and play without one or should the NHL/NHL Players Association force players old and new to skate with a visor in? Let us know by voting in the poll below.