I recently took a tour of the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto and since I was pressed for time I decided to make it a goalie-specific tour. If you haven’t made it to the HHOF then I strongly recommend you scrounge up your pennies for a trip to Toronto to see this shrine to everything hockey. I’d say go see a Leafs game while you’re in town but why ruin a good vacation?
The HHOF is divided into sections that culminate with the grand trophy room. A thorough tour should take at least two hours if you really want to soak in the experience. My goalie tour is divided into sections as well but they don’t necessarily correspond to the groupings you’ll see there. And remember, what you see in the HHOF is only a small fraction of the Hall’s collections so some of what you see here won’t be on display when you visit. On the other hand you’ll probably see things I didn’t.
Masks – Grand Entrance
This will be the best part of the tour for any goalie… and technically it’s free! The grand entrance to the HHOF takes you past a number of display cases showing off the best and most important goalie masks in NHL history. This display is the best way for NHL goalies to make it to the HHOF without having a Hall of Fame career!
You have to walk past this display, as well as a pretty impressive puck collection, to get to the ticket cashier so if you really wanted to you could see the masks without paying a dime. This is like having the Mona Lisa on display in the entrance to the Louvre!
Not the original mask worn by Jacques Plante but the one he considered his favorite. An upgrade from his original solid fiberglass mask, this model allowed much-needed ventilation. He continued to build upon the pretzel concept in the years to come.
In an interview with the NHL Network commemorating the 50th anniversary of Plante first wearing a mask Ken Dryden said this mask, worn at Cornell and during his first couple years as a pro, was his favorite since it was truest to Plante’s original full-time mask.
Tony Esposito? Nope... Jacques Plante! The pretzel design was clearly Plante's favorite, and even though it was Esposito who made the style famous it was a Plante design. Can you guess who sponsors the theater across from this display?
Eddie Giacomin was one of the first goalies to add some color and decoration to his mask. I'm not sure if that's a jolt of electricity, a fuzzy eyebrow or a stylized Red Wing!
Rogie Vachon wore this mask as a rookie with the Canadiens and when he first landed in Los Angeles (after Dryden's arrival booted him out of Montreal). He later switched to his better known purple smiley face mask.
This Gilles Meloche mask was truly a work of art and probably the best thing ever produced by the Cleveland Barons.
Gary Simmons' classic cobra mask, derived from his nickname. Check out the old bow-legged pads from the way he leaned on them. Truly old school!
Perhaps the centerpiece of the HHOF's mask collection, the famous Gilles Gratton lion mask. Gratton would sometimes growl from beneath it during faceoffs in his end.
I used to draw this mask as a kid! Ron Low honored America's bicentennial with this mask from the Capitals' very early days.
Mike Palmateer's style of play and his mask made him my favorite goalie when I was a kid, so seeing his mask on my way into the HHOF just gets my heart pumping for what lies ahead!
Yves Belanger spent the latter part of the 70's bouncing up and down between the minors and the NHL but his burning mask lives forever in the HHOF.
Steve Baker's short stint with the Rangers from 1979 to 1982 earned him a spot on the US squad in the 1981 Canada Cup. In a post-9/11 world his mask is a lasting tribute to the city of New York.
Billy Smith's biggest NHL achievements came while wearing a plain white helmet and cage but earlier in his career he sported a much more colorful Islanders mask. Martin Biron's current mask is based on this Smith mask.
As a Ken Dryden fan I found this mask intriguing. This part of the mask exhibit details the mask-making process, including making of the mold, but the details for this final step are somewhat vague. As far as I can tell this is a Greg Harrison model. I'm pretty certain it was never worn in a game by Dryden as his famous logo mask was made by Jim Homuth.
If not for this mask Murray Bannerman would simply be the answer to the trivia question "who replaced Tony Esposito has the Hawks #1 goalie?" But this literal interpretation of the Hawks' logo not only provided a template for future Chicago goalies but ensured Bannerman a spot on the list of greatest masks in history.
Grant Fuhr went through a variety of mask styles in his first few years in Edmonton, and then again when he switched to the combo (not to mention switching teams) but this is the most memorable, and the one used in tribute masks by Dwayne Roloson and Nikolai Khabibulin.
Pelle Lindbergh grew up idolizing Bernie Parent so he wore the exact same style mask. Lindbergh was one of the last goalies to wear the full fiberglass mask so I've always wondered how long he would have resisted the change to the cage if not for his tragic car accident.
Jacques Plante was not only the first goalie to consistently wear a mask in the NHL but was also a pioneer in mask design. Greg Harrison is the second most important person in the history of goalie mask. As the exhibit points out he revolutionized the design of the full fiberglass mask and created the first version of the combo mask. When you saw a masked goalie in the late 70's there was a pretty good chance he was wearing a Harrison design.
Montreal Canadians Locker Room
During my visit the HHOF had a temporary exhibit set up just beyond the main entrance to honor the Montreal Canadiens’ 100th anniversary. By the time you visit the Hall that exhibit will most likely be gone. But fans of the Canadiens’ great goalies can still revel in the experience created by the best of the permanent exhibits in the HHOF, the recreation of the Canadiens locker room from the old Montreal Forum.
Ken Dryden and Jacques Plante never played together on the Canadiens but seeing them next to each other in the recreation of the HHOF's Canadiens locker room gets your mind to thinking "what if?"
Ken Dryden's stall. I have to assume this mask is a replica but it deserves full credit for accurate detail, right down to the worn away edge on the chin.
Jacque Plante’s stall. Similar to the Dryden stall, great detail in this replica.
Thankfully for the Club de Hockey and all its fans Roy rejoined the Canadiens family, thereby removing the need for awkward conversations about his place in Habs' history or their locker room recreation.
Patrick Roy's stall. Once again, give full credit to the curators at the HHOF for accuracy in detail.
International and Olympic Goalies
The International exhibit of the HHOF features jerseys and equipment worn by players throughout the history of Olympic and World Championship tournaments. Many of the featured goalies were also well-known NHLers but some of them never played in North America.
This Jim Craig mask was most intriguing to me. Can you guess why? Go to the next photo for an explanation.
The Jim Craig mask on display in the Miracle on Ice exhibit certainly appears to be an authentic Ernie Higgins design but if you look at the image of Craig in action you'll see what was actually on the temples of his mask: a green clover. Does anyone know why the US flag decals were added to the mask on display?
Henrik Lundqvist's jersey from Sweden's 2006 gold medal win in Torino.
Manon Rheaume was the first woman to play in an NHL (exhibition) game. This is the mask worn when she backstopped Canada to the gold medal in the women's 1994 World Championship. Thankfully the Canadian women had abandoned their ugly pink uniforms by this time. Would a pink mask have made it into the HHOF?
Corey Hirsch wore these pads in the 1994 Olympics in Norway. Peter Forsberg beat Hirsch in the shootout to win the gold medal for Sweden, a scene that was (in)famously recreated on a Swedish postage stamp.
Sean Burke wore these pads backstopping Canada in the 2003 World Championships. Canada won the gold medal and despite missing the final due to injury Burke was still named top goalie of the tournament after allowing only 7 goals in 6 games.
Somehow I missed the name of the goalie who wore this mask but I think it came from the German league.
Steve Mason wore this mask as Canada won the gold medal in the World Junior Championship in 2008.
Throughout the HHOF there are various pieces of equipment and memorabilia from NHL goalies.
Bernie Parent's goalie skates.
Billy Smith was the first NHL goalie credited with scoring a goal. With the Colorado Rockies goalie pulled for an extra attacker, a Rockies forward passed this puck from behind the Islanders' net to a teammate. But nobody touched the intended pass and it carried all the way down the ice into the open Colorado net. The Rockies were immediately moved to New Jersey for doing such a stupid thing and Smith was credited with the goal as the last Islander to touch the puck.
Cam Ward wore this blocker when, as a rookie, he led the Carolina Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup in 2006.
Don Beaupre wore this mask as a rookie with the Minnesota North Stars. The tandem of Beaupre and Gilles Meloche led the North Stars to the Stanley Cup final (where they lost to the Islanders).
Ken Dryden wore these gloves in the 1978-79 season, the last of his career and the fourth consecutive Cup-winning season for the Habs.
Grant Fuhr wore these gloves while playing minor hockey in Spruce Grove, Alberta. Cooper was THE brand in goalie equipment in the 70's and much of the 80's.
The Toronto Maple Leafs presented this plaque to Terry Sawchuk in honor of his 100th career shutout. He eventually finished with 103, a number since equaled by Martin Brodeur.
King Richard Brodeur wore this helmet/cage during the Vancouver Canucks magical towel-waving run to the Stanley Cup finals in 1982.
Patrick Roy used these golden scissors to cut the mesh from the net after his 448th career win, breaking Terry Sawchuk's record. Roy's record was short lived as Martin Brodeur set a new record in 2009.
Niklas Backstrom wore this blocker during his rookie season when he and Manny Fernandez shared the 2006-07 Jennings Trophy for having the best GAA.
Tim Thomas' original and unique "mage" style mask.
Dave Kerr was just the second hockey player to grace the cover of Time magazine, shown here in1938. Kerr was the first regular goalie for the NY Rangers where he won the Vezina Trophy and Stanley Cup in 1940... the last Cup the Rangers would win for 54 years.
Goalie Stuff and Schwag
You’ll also find some interesting goalie trinkets that are either for sale today in the HHOF’s store, were sold at some point in the past or were used in marketing campaigns.
Bernie Parent action figure. Somebody gave me a similar Vesa Toskala figure and I have to say the attention to detail is very impressive.
Denis Lemieux miniature replica mask in the HHOF store. You can get into the store without purchasing a ticket to the Hall if all you want to do is shop! Other replicas masks are also available.
Molson Canadian beer cans featuring the masks of Steve Baker and Gerry Cheevers. TendersLounge is hoping to sign up Duff Beer as a sponsor.
Commemorative mask for induction of Mark Messier into the HHOF in 2007. Unless your name is Grant Fuhr, Bill Ranford or Mike Richter why would any goalie in the world give a gift to the second most prolific scorer in NHL history?
The HHOF’s trophy hall, simply put, is stunning. I’m only sharing the goalie-specific trophies here but you should be prepared to stare in wonder at old bands that have been removed from the Stanley Cup, all the scoring trophies, the wall of inductees and of course the Stanley Cup itself sitting beneath a stained glass dome.
The Vezina Trophy, created to honor Canadiens' goalie Georges Vezina, was originally awarded to the goalie(s) who had the best GAA during the regular season. Since 1981 it has been awarded to the best goalie in the NHL as voted on by the league's GM's.
Base of the Vezina Trophy
More detail from the base of the Vezina Trophy
Each winner has their own shield added to the base of the trophy. Unfortunately I can't figure out the macro setting on my camera so Martin Brodeur's 2007 shield was the only one that came out clearly.
Since 1981 the William Jennings Trophy has been awarded to the goalie(s) with the best GAA. Each winner's name is engraved on a silver goalie stick. The trophy should have been named after Jacques Plante who won the Vezina seven times when it was awarded for best GAA but the NHL prefers to honor corporate "builders". Patrick Roy is the most frequent name on the Jennings, engraved five times.
If you haven’t been to the Hockey Hall of Fame I hope you make it there soon for a visit. Definitely take in all that it has to offer but hopefully this guide will help you get the most out of the “Goalie Hall of Fame”.
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