Through the centuries man has utilized masks to ward off terrifying forces of nature and to terrify other men, no people more imaginatively than antique Africans. Small wonder, then, that hockey goalies should eventually adopt masks to ward off a specific new terror. This was the slap shot, which sent the puck rising at 100 mph toward unprotected heads. Jacques Plante was the first major-leaguer to wear a mask regularly, starting in 1959. What Jacques planted, virtually all other goalies reaped by the late 1960s, for widespread use of the curved stick made the slap shot not merely cranium-high but viciously unpredictable. As the following pages reveal, masks have also contrived to give each goalie a special personality and in one case to tell a simplified story.
Darkest Africa and deepest Chicago are linked by face coverings such as that worn by the Hawks' Tony Esposito, who will match his goals-against average with any witch doctor.
Variety has come into the hockey maskmaker's art, as Messrs. Ed Giacomin (New York), Gerry Cheevers (Boston) and Jacques Plante (Toronto) demonstrate. But for scaring off attackers, these modern masks hardly rival their African predecessors. Only Cheevers', which shows the stitches he would have received if barefaced, has the flair of the Ibo mask (left) or the imposing primitive pair from the Congo.