What's up hockey fans?
Did you know that the first goaltender to wear a mask in a game was not Jacques Plante, but a goaltender for the 1927 Montreal Maroons named Clint Benedict? Well, until today, I didn't either.
C'mon people, bear with me here; it's either this or another post about the NHL draft, and really- does anybody who isn't drawing a salary in hockey still give a wet turd about that? I just deleted a half-assed post about how the Ottawa Senators just drafted Mike Foligino's kid, and the family's frantic search for one of those goofy-ass bike helmets in red and black.
I'm not proud of it either.
At any rate, my search for "stupid helmets" led me on one of those rambling google searches, and as one click led to another, I found myself immersed in the history of the goalie mask, which is how I came to learn the tale of Clint Benedict.
The year was 1927, and our story begins in the same classic, timeless fashion that all great stories about goalie masks start- with the dull, wet "thwack" of a frozen hunk of rubber hitting a grown man in the face. It's a disturbing sound, I'd imagine, and abrupt, kind of like the sound created by hitting an industrial sized bag of damp bread dough with the flat end of a snow shovel, or perhaps the inevitable result of slowly pressing your heel down on a large zip-loc bag, full to brimming with molasses.
Clint Benedict may have heard that sound, but more likely heard only the stick of famed Montreal Canadien Howie Mornez hitting the puck, followed by a deep resonant ringing sound, and then the hazy voice of the trainer, asking him for an accurate count of what must have been dozens of fingers being waved in front of his face.
When Clint returned to the game, he risked being called a coward twice; once for wearing the first ever face mask in an NHL game, and again for not being able to withstand the taunts of his peers, and abandoning it after two games, claiming that the leather nose piece restricted his vision.
And that's why Jacques Plante is the more famous name, not so much for wearing his mask in the first place, but for sticking to his guns and demanding a change despite taunts, slurs and a well publicized argument with his coach, the future hall of famer Toe Blake. By doing this, Plante proved two points that despite seeming obvious today, were significant achievements at the time, the first being that the National Hockey League was better off with masked goaltenders, and the second being that it isn't so hard to win an argument with a man named Toe.
So now- you know.
Now what the hell should I write about tomorrow?