Jacques Plante, 1929 - 1986
This article was originally written and submitted as part of a Canada 150 Project, the Innovation Storybook, to crowdsource stories of Canadian innovation with partners across Canada. The content has since been migrated to Ingenium’s Channel, a digital hub featuring curated content related to science, technology and innovation.
In November 1959, top Canadian goaltender, Jacques Plante, forever changed the game of hockey when he started wearing a face mask during National Hockey League games. Until then, goaltenders used little padding and no protective masks during regulation play. Plante, who played for the Montreal Canadiens, had been experimenting with different masks during practices and exhibition games to protect himself from pucks and sticks since the mid-1950s. But it wasn’t until November 1, 1959, during an NHL game against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden, when Plante suffered a broken nose and multiple cuts to the face, that he returned from the dressing room wearing a mask created by fibreglass specialist, Bill Burchmore. And in 1960, Plante debuted a new lighter mask, also produced by Burchmore, commonly known as the “pretzel mask”, which consisted of 540 woven ends of fiberglass yarn. With undeniable safety benefits, it wasn’t long before other goalies followed suit and the mask became a standard piece of goaltending equipment.