The goalie mask in hockey originated in 1959, when Montreal Canadiens goaltender Jacques Plante created a fiberglass mask after he was struck in the face by a puck.
In the decades that followed, the goalie mask became accepted in hockey, and were mass produced for amateurs and minor hockey associations. While innovations allowed improvements in protection and vision for goalies, the mask also made advances in other areas.
One of them being design for which it owes a lot to Greg Harrison, a former goalie and art student at the University Of Toronto.
The first NHL mask created by Harrison was for Pittsburgh’s Jim Rutherford in 1974. It was a simple powder blue design, but signaled the beginning of individuality and creativity with goalie masks.
By the end of the 1970s, over eighty percent of the league’s goalies were wearing masks designed by Harrison.
Today, the goalie mask is as personal as ever. Whether it is paying tribute to the city, the legacy of the team, or the personality of the goalie. The general consensus is that the mask is one of the few remaining staples of sports where individuality still exists.
As former Nashville Predator goalie Chris Mason notes: “It’s unique in sports to be able to express yourself. Part of the reason I love being a goalie is that you can have some form of personal expression on your mask.”
Or even better, from Philadelphia Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov: “The design on your mask is like part of your soul.”
photo via SI