It was on this day in 1959 that Montreal Canadiens goaltender Jacques Plante became the first NHL goalie to wear a protective face mask.
According to canadianchannel.ca, Plante had used a crude home-made fibreglass mask in practice since 1956 after missing 13 games because of sinusitis. Canadiens head coach Toe Blake did not allow him to wear it during regulation play, but on November 1, 1959, an Andy Bathgate shot broke his nose three minutes into a game against the New York Rangers, and he had to have seven stitches to close a gash between his upper lip and left nostril.
Plante returned to the ice wearing the practice mask; Blake was angry, but Plante refused to return to the goal without the mask.
The Canadiens won the game 3–1.
Plante refused to discard the mask in future games, and Blake gave up complaining when the team’s unbeaten streak stretched to 18 games. When Plante did not wear the mask, at Blake’s request, against Detroit on March 8, 1960; the team lost 3–0. Plante went back to his mask for good the next night, and the Canadiens won their fifth straight Stanley Cup that year.
The world of sports is not without its celebrations in the 2000 millennium year, and perhaps first among them was the 50th National Hockey League (NHL) All-Star Game. Held on February 6, 2000 in Toronto, host city of the first official all-star game in 1947, the match was the centrepiece of the all-star weekend at the Air Canada Centre. In honour of this historic Canadian event, Canada Post released a commemorative six-stamp issue featuring some of this country’s greatest hockey stars, including Jacques Plante.
Available as a six-stamp souvenir sheet with a souvenir folder, the same six-stamp souvenir sheet without a folder, and on an OFDC three-pack, this domestic-rate release paid tribute to a tradition that reaches back to hockey’s early days. The souvenir sheet featured an All-Star lineup of Canadian hockey greats including Wayne Gretzky “The Great One”, Gordie Howe “Mr. Hockey”, Maurice “Rocket” Richard, Doug Harvey, Bobby Orr and Jacques Plante.