It's hard to imagine a time when goalies didn't wear face protection, but before Jacques Plante (pictured above) debuted his mask in 1959, that was the norm for brave NHL netminders. The early prototypes looked more spooky than stylish and offered little protection compared to the ones used today, but goalie masks have now developed into technologically advanced works of art. Take a look at the journey the special piece of equipment has taken over the years.
Getty ImagesPictorial Parade
Montreal's Jacques Plante took one too many pucks to the face, and the game was changed forever. On Nov. 1, 1959, after a shot by Ranger Andy Bathgate broke his nose and opened a cut requiring seven stitches, Plante forced legendary coach Toe Blake to allow him to wear a mask he had been developing and using in practice. Plante become the first to make the faceguard a regular piece of equipment.
Hockey Hall of Fame
Three years after Plante debuted the mask, Red Wings goalie Terry Sawchuk decided he had enough too and began wearing one himself.
Detroit Red Wings
In 1968, Boston's Gerry Cheevers became the first to have markings on his goalie mask. Every time a puck hit his faceguard, Bruins trainer John 'Frosty' Forristall drew stitches on it to indicate where the injury would have occurred.
While still in college at Cornell, future Canadiens goalie Ken Dryden wore a metal frame mask. He wore that "bone" or "pretzel" style early on in his NHL career, too.
Ken Dryden, Part 2
Later on in his Hall of Fame career with the Canadiens, Dryden adopted a mask that provided more protection.
Tretiak, of the Moscow Central Red Army team, became one of the first goalies to wear a helmet/metal cage combo in the early 1970s. While it took a while for this style to catch on in North America, it became common much more quickly in Europe.
NHLI via Getty ImagesDenis Brodeur
In 1972, Flyers goaltender Doug Favell became one of the first to add color to his goalie mask, painting an orange burst pattern on it.
In 1974, Detroit's Jim Rutherford asked artist and mask maker Greg Harrison to add some color to his mask by painting red wings above the eye holes. Today's elaborate designs are said to be able to trace their roots to Rutherford's mask.
Getty ImagesSteve Babineau
Blackhawks goalie Tony Esposito dons an old mask of his during a ceremony in his honor in 2008. Esposito's setup combined a wire cage over the eye holes of this fibreglass mask, one of the first to sport this combination.
The Rangers' Gilles Gratton, a colorful character in his own right, teamed up with artist/mask maker Harrison in 1976 to create a lion-themed mask. Gratton's astrological sign is Leo.
While the helmet/cage combination started making its way into the NHL in the late '70s and early '80s, Mike Liut of the St. Louis Blues wore a fibreglass mask that added more throat protection than most.
Mike Liut, Part 2
Later in his career, Liut, shown here with the Hartford Whalers, adopted style of mask with a wire cage giving him better vision.
As the mask continued to develop technologically, so did the designs. Some, like Mike Richter of the New York Rangers, depicted themes inspired by their local regions.
Other goalies, like Ed Belfour (shown here during his time in Dallas), personalized their masks based on their nicknames. Known as The Eagle, Belfour painted the bird on his mask.
Today's goalie masks are made of tough materials like kevlar as well as carbon and aramid fibers; they're also designed to transfer impact to prevent injury and improve breathability. They've also become pretty sweet to look at, too. According to NHL.com in 2009, the league said it cost roughly $800-2000 to have a mask professionally painted. Philadelphia goaltender Steve Mason debuted this mask during the 2013-14 regular season. It features some of his teammates, such as Claude Giroux, as zombies.