Following Montreal Maroons goalkeeper Clint Benedict’s short-lived flirtation in 1930, the mask disappeared from the NHL scene for the better part of the next three decades. International ice hockey, not surprisingly, followed suit. In some respects for all involved, it was viewed as a matter of courage and commitment.
Nikolai Pushkov had no protection for his face when the Soviet Union first appeared at the Winter Olympics to claim the gold medal in 1956.
Neither did JACK MCCARTAN, the IIHF Directorate’s Best Goaltender in 1960 for the championship United States squad at Squaw Valley.
This despite the fact that, in November of 1958, Montreal Canadiens standout netminder Jacques Plante and been hit in the forehead and cut by a backhand shot from New York Rangers forward Andy Bathgate during a game. Following a 45-minute delay to get stitched up, the future Hall of Famer returned to the ice wearing a fibreglass mask molded to fit his face. Over the initial objections of his coach, Plante continued to wear this new-style facial protection through the rest of the 1958-59 season and, with improvements, into the next.
Still, it would take a while before the facial protection became standard equipment, however.
Jack McCartan was signed by the New York Rangers shortly following the United States won the gold medal at the Winter Olympics in February of 1960.
The former University of Minnesota All-America was initially dispatched to the Minneapolis Rangers of the Central Hockey League but was recalled late in the season to play four games (1.75 avg, 1 W, 1 L, 2 T) with New York in the National Hockey League.
McCartan was manhandled by NHL competition in eight games (4.77 avg, 1 w, 6 L, 1 T) early into the 1960-61 campaign and was sent to the Kitchener-Waterloo Beavers of the Eastern Professional Hockey League to finish the year.
McCartan never returned to the top flight and spent the next 11 seasons with various teams in assorted minor leagues before finally signing with the Minnesota Fighting Saints of the fledgling World Hockey Association, a rival circuit to the NHL, for the 1972-73 season.