The 1960s was an era of tremendous change. Of course, the NHL expanded from six to twelve teams, and to fourteen in 1970, but it was also the decade when almost all goalies switched from playing barefaced to wearing a mask. While the improved safety was beyond reproach, masks did make one startling change to the drama of watching a game.
In the mask-less days, fans could see a goalie’s every expression, how he grimaced to reach for a puck, how he played in pain after getting hit by a shot, how he cringed after allowing a goal. The goalie’s face was pure theatre, offering fans the full range, from comedy to drama. Once they donned the masks, these expressions were hidden forever.
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In thespian terms, however, one might say goalies went from being theatre in the round to kabuki. They decorated their masks with images that hopefully inspired fear in enemy shooters or intimidated the opposition in some way. They reflected the team’s colours or the goalie’s personality. From being utterly conspicuous, a goalie’s expressions became inscrutable.
This was just how Philadelphia Flyers goalie Bernie Parent liked it. He didn’t like anyone associated with the game fans, officials, opponents to see his face at any time. So, from the moment he got up from his stall in the dressing room to hit the ice until the time he returned to said stall, he kept his mask firmly on his face, giving him the unknowable character that, he believed, played on the minds of his opponents.