Custom Search

Who first wore the mask after Jacques Plante? Who held out the longest?

Hockey fans know that Jacques Plante became, famously, the first NHL goaltender in the modern era to wear the goalie mask.  Earlier this week, in a special trivia post, one of the questions I asked was: who was first the goalie after Plante (who started using the mask in games in the fall of 1959) to begin wearing a face mark on a regular basis? (The photo above shows Plante in action for Montreal in his pre-mask days.  Old Hab fans will recognize Bob Turner and Donnie Marshall as the other Canadiens in the picture.)

Now, if memory serves, I believe that the answer to the question is Terry Sawchuk, then with the Red Wings.  But I’m now wondering if I was wrong.  Don Simmons wore a mask with the Leafs when he played for them during the 1961-’62 season, including when he was in goal for Game 6 in the finals in Chicago.  I believe he wore a mask with the Bruins before hand, so was he actually the first after Plante (shown, upper right, with maybe his earliest version of the mask) to do it?

We've included a neat old picture (below left) from the early '60s, showing one of the Red Wing trainers drilling holes in the old-style mask that Sawchuk wore. Interestingly, though Sawchuk wore a mask in the early 1960s in Detroit, (and later with the Leafs, LA Kings and Rangers) his Red Wing successor, lefty Roger Crozier, did not.  I don’t think Crozier wore a mask until much later in his career, when he was with the Buffalo Sabres, but I could be wrong about that.

Eddie Giacomin didn’t wear a mask for years with the Rangers.  Hall-of-Famer Gump Worsley held out a long time, too, not donning the mask until near the end of his career, when he played with the expansion Minnesota North Stars.

So I’m trying to remember who held out the longest without wearing a mask.  From a Maple Leaf perspective, I recall that the ageless Johnny Bower didn’t wear one until his very last NHL game in the 1969-’70 season, in a contest against the Habs. (This week, Yakovmironov at did a great piece on the best Leaf goalie masks over the years.) For his part, Plante continually modifed his mask, including the version he wore (right) after he was traded to the New York Rangers.

Les Binkley held out for a long time, refusing to wear a mask, while he was with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the early expansion years.  But I wonder if Joe Dailey, also with the Penguins (and later the WHA, right?) held out the longest.  He's the guy that comes to mind.  I seem to remember him with the Red Wings, too, also without a mask.

I should know this, but I’d look forward to hearing from readers who know, for sure, who was the last NHL goalie to play without a mask!


  1. You ask, and I answer!

    The person you are looking for is Andy Brown, who played in the NHL from 1971 to 1974 and then after in the WHA until 1977.

    He never wore a mask!

    Gump Worsley fire wore one in the 1973/74 season, which was his last campaing. Coincidently, Plante would play the next year with the WHA Edmonton Oilers.

    Binkley (who wore contact lenses during his time in the NHL and WHA) gave up Bobby Hull's 544th goal, Gordie Howe's 700th goal and the first ever WHA penalty shot goal. I don't know the exact date where he started wearing one.

    Dailey didn't wear one until he got to the WHA!

    I'll try and get the dates for the other goalies.

    Now, Simmons? He first wore one when he was playing for Boston in 59/60. One of his first games with it, he shut out the Leafs 4-0 on Jan 10, 1960.

  2. Thanks Scott. Yes, Andy Brown! Didn't he play with the Penguins, too, like Binkley and Daley? That's the guy who escaped me. As I mentioned, I recall that Binkley held out a long, long time. And Dailey was a solid goalie with the Pens and Wings, too, I believe. I knew Don Simmons wore one in Boston, before he ever got to Toronto. And if he started with a mask that soon ('59-'60), that means he was in fact ahead of Sawchuk in donning a mask.

  3. Binkley started wearing one in the 70-71 season, as did Giacomin and Gamble. That left Joe Daley and Worsley, both of whom finally started wearing one in 73-74. Another late hold-out was US National Team Goalie Karl Wetzel who was without in the 1973 championships. Andy Brown of course started in the the NHL in about 1972 without one and played in the WHA without one until 1977. There was also a Swedish goalie in the WHA who had this helmet with a little bit of jaw protection, but it wasn't really a mask. Oddly, the NHL had a rule requiring masks at some point but took it off it's books a few years abo

  4. Thanks Anon. I knew that Worsley was a very late hold out. I seem to recall he started wearing one at some point in his 40s, when he was with Minnesota.

    Andy Brown is a great old name. (I remember him with the Penguins...) I don't recall the Swedish WHA goalie you mention...

  5. Here's a summary of when various hold outs started to wear masks:

    Glen Hall: November 1968
    Roy Edwards: January 1969
    Rogie Vachon, Johnny Bauer, Roger Crozier and Cesar Maniago: 69-70 season.
    Eddie Giacomin, Bruce Gamble, Les Binkley and Dennis DeJordy: 1970-71 season.
    (Wayne Rutledge played without in the NHL in 69-70. I don't know when he started wearing one in minors thereafter).
    Gump Worsley and Joe Daley: 73-74
    Andy Brown: Maskless through end of career in 76-77.

    In the minors, old timers like Don Head, Bob Champoux, Jack McCartan, and Bob Perrault were very late without masks. As mentioned, U.S. Nat. Team goalie Karl Wetzel was without as late as 71 or 73. The Swedish goalie who played well into the 70s with the helmet that offered some protection for the jaw and mouth but not the rest of the face was Christer Abrahamsson.

    Incidently, I think Tony Esposito played a few games without one at the behest of Claude Reul in Montreal in 68-69.

    The doctors told Jacques Plante that he would have been dead without a mask after getting knocked cold in the 1970 finals, and he was wearing the best state of the art mask of that time. Amazing no one was killed and few eyes were lost.

  6. Thanks Anon, that's outstanding. I did not remember Esposito playing without a mask! Those are great old names, including Wetzel and goalies I've written about here including Maniago, Bob Perreault and Jack MacCartan.

    Andy Brown, that's amazing. I remember him well with the Penguins. Am I correct in thinking that it was Boston's Freddie Stanfield who hit Plante?

  7. Yes, it was Stanfield. In the Hockey Channel Documentary on curved sticks Bobby Hull bemoans the fact that Plante's beaning was used to push a further limitation on curves after that season, while Stanfield used a straight stick. I remember reading about Montreal's coach making Esposito play without a mask at the time, but it was only a few games and I haven't seen any pictures of it since, so I can't really confirm.

  8. I remember reading that Tony E. had played a few games without one in 68-69,but I've never seen a photo. I have seen photos of DeJordy without a mask from his limited games in Chicago in 69-70 but with a mask from late in that season after he was traded to L.A. Fern Rivard of MN was without mask in 68-69 but with one in 69-70 after getting taken off on a stretcher in March 1969. Jack Norris was probably without during limited action for the Hawks in 68-69. I read in a book that Jim Rutherford played a few games without as a rookie in 70-71. Correction from above: Bauer started wearing in 68-69 (see photos of him with mask against various opponents; his only game in 69-70 was against Habs). Al Smith of Toronto didn't wear one in 67-68 (see All Star Game photos); not sure about 68-69. Funny to think that guys like Dave Dryden, Gilles Villemure, Gerry Cheevers, and Gary Smith all played in the NHL without early in their careers.