Plante changed the way goalies played and looked
Wednesday, November 19, 2003
More Info on Jacques Plante
By Bob Carter
Special to ESPN.com
Nov. 1, 1959 - Nothing could mask the facial damage on the night Jacques Plante went down in Madison Square Garden. Nothing, that is, but a mask.
Early in the first period, a hard backhander by the Rangers' Andy Bathgate struck Plante in the face, a screened shot the Montreal goaltender never saw. The game was delayed while Plante, his face bleeding and swollen, received seven stitches.
The goalie told coach Toe Blake he didn't want to return without his mask, a crude plastic covering he'd worn often in practice but never in a game. Blake fervently opposed the idea, but without a backup goalie he relented.
A masked Plante returned to the ice, shocking a sellout crowd of 15,925 and Rangers players alike.
He made 24 more saves and Montreal won 3-1.
Afterwards, Plante said the mask was comfortable, didn't reduce his vision and was needed. "The game has improved so much," he said. "It's become much tougher on goalies. They're starting to realize it."
Odds 'n' Ends
The Canadiens were on a seven-game unbeaten streak when Plante put on the mask. They extended the streak to 18 as a masked Plante went 10-0-1 that November. Toronto ended the streak on December 2 by beating Plante 1-0 on a goal by Frank Mahovlich.
At first, Rangers general manager Muzz Patrick was among those who opposed Plante's wearing of a mask. Female fans, he said, wanted to see the faces of the players.
Within a month, though, he changed his mind. He ordered all goalies in the Rangers' farm system to wear masks similar to Plante's.
Plante was an all-star in his rookie year in the Quebec Junior A League, allowing just 101 goals in 48 games.
Plante was part of a stable Montreal lineup during its five-year title streak. Eleven of the players were with the team for all five Cup wins (1956-60).
Some players tried to bang Plante when he roamed from in front of the net, but the goalie received protection from his defense. One of his most frequent rivals was Red Sullivan, who was speared so badly in one game, by defenseman Doug Harvey, that he ended up in the hospital.
Plante didn't wear the mask, at coach Toe Blake's request, against Detroit on March 8, 1960. The Canadiens lost 3-0, and the mask returned for good the next night, a 9-4 victory over Toronto.
He led the Canadiens to a 6-1 victory over the NHL All-Stars in 1960.
Plante played all 70 games in 1961-62, the last Montreal goaltender to play every game in a season.
The goalie suffered from recurring asthma and missed parts of three seasons with knee injuries.
After 11 years with Montreal, the Canadiens in June 1963 traded Plante, Don Marshall and Phil Goyette to the New York Rangers for Gump Worsley, Dave Balon, Leon Rochefort and Len Ronson.
Plante won the starting goalie job with the expansionist Oakland Seals in 1967, but became involved in a contract dispute and left the team before the season opener.
He was lured back to the game in 1968 by coach Scotty Bowman of the St. Louis Blues.
When he left the NHL in 1973, Plante led goalies with three 40-win seasons: 42-12-10 in 1955-56, 40-17-12 in 1959-60 and 42-14-14 in 1961-62.
Plante's NHL record was 434-247-146 in the regular season and 71-37 in the playoffs.
In 1973, as coach and GM of the WHA's Quebec Nordiques, he offered longtime Montreal star Jean Beliveau a multi-year contract. Beliveau, 42, turned it down, saying he was too old to play high-quality hockey.
Plante became wealthy marketing masks. He designed his own and later did it for other goalies. Bernie Parent was among those who wore Plante's masks.
After retiring as a player, Plante divided his time between a home in Cierre, Switzerland, and coaching hockey in North America.
In January 1986, he signed to become the Blues' goalies coach. A month later, he was diagnosed with stomach cancer.
In 1995, Plante's No. 1 jersey was the seventh number retired by the Canadiens.
Each year, the top goaltender in the Quebec Major Hockey League receives the Jacques Plante Trophy.
Plante married Jacqueline Gagne in 1949 and they divorced in 1972. They had two sons, Michel and Richard. In 1975, Richard, 19, committed suicide.
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