To this day, the masks of Gerry Cheevers are arguably the best the game has ever seen. Cheevers played for Boston at a time when goalies were making the transition from playing without a mask to playing with one. When Cheevers played junior with St. Mike’s in Toronto, he was bare-faced, but by the time he got to the Bruins he was wearing facial protection.
The late 1960s and early 1970s was a period of controversy and discomfort for goalies. It was an awkward and lengthy transition, not a simple case of no mask one day and mask the next day. Goalies were vilified for wearing them, called cowards by their own coaches and managers. Masks were crudely and inconsistently crafted, and many were uncomfortable or prevented a goalie from seeing the puck at his skates.
Goalie Gerry Cheevers marked his mask every time he got hit in the face by a puck.
Different styles and designs of masks had different advantages but also different problems, and all didn’t protect the face completely. Eyes were still vulnerable, and the mask was still right up against a goalie’s skin, meaning if a hard slapshot hit it, the goalie would still be cut and seriously injured.
GERRY CHEEVERS Photo Gallery
Cheevers painted black scars on his mask every time he was hit by a puck. It was a symbol for all to see that without the mask, this is where he’d have required stitches. It was his superstition that so long as he painted the scars on the mask, he himself wouldn’t be seriously hurt.
The masks gave him an eerie and menacing look as well, but it worked more as a reminder that a mask was effective for preventing many an injury, something no coach or manager could rightly complain about. And for Cheevers, the mask gave him confidence to play aggressively and not worry about being hurt, the most difficult task any goalie of his era faced.
QUICK SHOT CHRIS CHELIOS
Chris Chelios always had to be the last player to be fully dressed before going out on the ice. The twenty-five-year NHL veteran was the second-oldest skater in NHL history by the time he played his last game in 2010.
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