Hall of Famer
Inducted in 1981
Five Stanley Cups in a row - Montreal Canadiens
Five Vezina Trophies in a row
Hart Trophy - Montreal Canadiens
Although the statistical record and career of Jacques Plante speaks volumes for his contributions to the game, it was the events of November 2, 1959, for which Plante is most famous. Plante made brief appearances with the Montreal Canadiens in both the regular season and playoffs of 1953, a year the Habs won the Stanley Cup. The following season, he had a more substantial stay in the NHL, and in 1954 he emerged as the team's number-one goalie, a position he held for the next nine years. He had a sensational record of 31-13-7 in his first full season, and starting in 1955 he led the team to an extraordinary five straight Stanley Cups. Just as amazing, he won the Vezina Trophy each of those years as well, and in four of those five years he also led the league in wins. He was perhaps the quirkiest goalie of all time, or, the best of the quirky goalies, but he was also a pioneer. Plante would put his arm in the air to warn his defenceman of an icing call. He would go behind the net to stop the puck on shoot-ins, come way out of his net to play the puck or poke it away from oncoming forwards, and move out of the crease to cut down the angle for opposing shooters. In fact, he was the first goalie who studied his responsibilities and learned to understand that technique as much as reflexes could help a goalie stop the puck. But on November 2, 1959, the maskless Plante took an Andy Bathgate shot flush off the face. He went to the dressing room for stitches, and when he re-emerged, he was wearing a face mask, the first goalie to do so since Clint Benedict more than two decades earlier. Plante continued to wear the mask despite the protestations of his coach, Toe Blake. Blake, however, knew he was dealing with the best goalie in the league, and since Plante kept winning and winning while using the mask, Blake had no choice but to allow it even though he felt it made his goalie look like a coward. Plante became the first goalie to wear the mask to avoid injury. Benedict had worn his to protect an injured face. In the 1960s, Plante paved the way for all other goalies to wear one, and he continued to develop newer and safer designs for the mask. Montreal traded Plante to the New York Rangers in 1963. In 1961-62, a year the Leafs won the Cup, Plante won another Vezina Trophy as well as the Hart Trophy as league MVP. He stayed a year and a half with the Rangers before retiring, but returned to the game in 1968 to share the goaling duties with Glenn Hall and the new St. Louis Blues. The pair shared an historic Vezina Trophy in 1968-69, and Plante later joined Toronto and then Boston to close out his NHL career at age 44. He later played in the WHA until past his 46th birthday. In all, he won 435 games and had 82 shutouts, hall of fame numbers, to be sure. But it was his goaltending philosophy and his use of the facemask that were his greater contributions to the game for which every goalie today must be thankful.