Book Review - Saving Face: The Art and History of the Goalie Mask by Jim Hynes and Gary Smith
Being a long-time hockey fan (and having a certain affinity for goalies), I knew I had to get this book when I saw it appear on my RSS feed... Saving Face: The Art and History of the Goalie Mask by Jim Hynes and Gary Smith. If you're not a hockey fan, you might wonder how on earth you could write a book about a single piece of sporting gear, and not even a actual part of the game at that! Ah, if you *are* a fan of the game, you know that the goalie mask has a rich and storied history. Jim Hynes and Gary Smith do an excellent job in telling that story, complete with great photographs from the first leather padding to the "mage" works of art that are used these days.
Forward by Gerry Cheevers
The Golden Age
Paint Jobs and Metal Bars
The Freedom of Expression
When the game of hockey first started, goalies played just as everyone else did... no helmet, no mask. It wasn't as deadly as it might sound now, as the sticks at that time almost guaranteed that the puck never left the ice surface. Besides, goalies were forbidden by rule to go to the ice to block a shot. It was all standup goaltending. But as the game progressed, the sticks got lighter, the shots started leaving the ice, and goalies were allowed to do just about anything to block a puck. As you might imagine, this resulted in a number of rather graphic injuries. One of the first goaltenders to try out facial protection in the NHL was Clint Benedict in 1930. His mask was made of leather, and covered the forehead, nose, and cheeks. In hindsight, it seems to be a no-brainer decision to wear masks, but back then it was a major controversy. Your courage was questioned, coaches forbid the practice, and fans couldn't see the faces of their favorite players. But as the number of injuries declined and the mask technology advanced, more high-end goalies started to adopt them. 1958 led to the introduction of the fiberglass molded mask (think Freddie Krueger style), and not too soon after that, the tradition of decorating the mask took off. What started off as a joke by Cheevers painting stitches whenever he got hit with a puck, progressed to the incredible paint jobs you see in the league today. These custom paint jobs often cost thousands of dollars and can take well over a week to complete. Hynes and Smith complete their history by showing how the fiberglass mask gave way to the "birdcage" style popularized by USSR goalie Vladislav Tretiak during the 1992 Summit Series. And from there, we go to the most familiar style these days, the combination mask that combines the mask and cage into a sleek, wrap-around design that offers the goalie an incredible amount of safety from slapshots traveling at 100 miles per hour.
There's no other single piece of sporting gear that can reflect the personality of the wearer as much as the goalie mask. Between their concise but complete history and the detailed photographs of masks over the years, Hynes and Smith have created a book that most hockey will enjoy, and all goalies will want to own. Even though I knew some of the history before I started this, the story took on a whole new level of color and flavor with Saving Face. I'm sure both of my sons who play hockey (one of which is a goalie), will enjoy reading this book immensely. I just have to convince him that his pure black combination helmet is perfectly acceptable, and that dad doesn't have that kind of money for a custom paint job. :)