Eric Zweig: Who Was That (First) Masked Man?

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  1. Eric Zweig Registered User

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    You’d think something as simple as who was the first goalie in hockey history to wear a mask would be an easy question to answer. It’s not. In fact, it’s been surprisingly difficult to nail down.

    Jacques Plante — though he popularized the concept for modern goalies — was certainly not the first to wear one. Clint Benedict (who I’ve argued in the past was was a better goalie than Georges Vezina, the NHL’s goaltending trophy namesake) was probably the first NHL goaltender to wear a mask when he put one on for a few games late in the 1929–30 season to protect a frequently broken nose. My friend and colleague Stephen Smith, on his Puckstruck web site several years ago, wondered if George Hainsworth (another early era great) might have actually preceded Benedict by a year. He may have, although Stephen concludes that Hainsworth was more likely to have been wearing an elaborate bandage to protect his own broken nose.

    For a while, the trendy answer to who was the first goalie to wear a mask was Elizabeth Graham, who is known to have worn a fencing mask while playing goal for the Queen’s University women’s hockey team in 1927. However, others (including another woman, Corinne Hardman of Montreal’s Western Ladies Hockey Club in 1916) had been known to wear masks before that.

    I wrote about the early history of goalie masks several years ago, although Corinne Hardman was new on me thanks to another Stephen Smith story from last year. Stephen’s story also pushed back my earliest knowledge (which had previously been of Eddie Giroux wearing a baseball catcher’s mask in practice with the Toronto Marlboros in December of 1903 to protect a cut on his face) to 1899. But that’s where the story gets murky once again.

    The Ottawa Citizen of January 23, 1899, picked up a story from the Kingston Times claiming that goalie Edgar Hiscock of the Frontenacs had recently broken his nose and would be forced to wear a baseball mask in his coming games.

    IF Hiscock did wear a mask in a game, he would appear to be the first … or, at least, the earliest discovery made so far. However, nobody that I’m aware of has found an account of any subsequent Kingston games that actually confirms Hiscock wore one! His name certainly appears in several game summaries during the rest of the hockey season, but there’s no mention of wearing a mask. (Admittedly, I’ve only been able to check myself in online sources. Perhaps Kingston newspapers on microfilm have something, but it doesn’t appear that anyone has found anything yet.)

    If Hiscock didn’t wear a mask in any of the games before the Kingston Frontenacs wrapped up their season by defeating Guelph 5–2 for the OHA Intermediate championship on March 6, 1899, then another name moves to the top of the “first” list. Another Intermediate champion (probably of the city of Calgary): Ev Marshall.

    Marshall’s case is clearly confirmed by the Calgary Herald of March 17, 1899, which reported that he wore a baseball mask while playing goal for the local Press hockey club in the championship game against a team of picked stars from other Calgary clubs the night before.

    Turns out that Ev Marshall (Everett Douglas Marshall to be exact) is a pretty interesting guy!

    Marshall (all this information comes from his obituary in the Calgary Herald from August 25, 1949 after his death the night before) was born in Megantic County, Quebec, on December 19, 1875*. Although there seems to be some conflicting information as to when his father died, it appears to have been before Everett’s mother brought her only child with her to settle in the Calgary area in 1885, just one year after Calgary had been officially incorporated as a town.

    [* Daniel Doyon found birth records showing that Everett Marshall was actually born three years earlier, on December 19, 1872, in Inverness, Quebec, which is part of Megantic County.]

    By 1888, young Everett was one of three delivery boys working for the Calgary Herald. He soon apprenticed as a printer’s devil and later he and M.C. “Mike” Costello (a future mayor of Calgary) became the first printers in Calgary to operate a linotype machine, which eliminated the need for printers to lay out a newspaper by hand. After 1894, Ev took on editorial duties as well, and would briefly serve as the Herald’s editor. He later set up his own paper, The Market Examiner, in 1917, in partnership with the Herald’s first women’s and society page editor, Jean A. Grant, whom he married in 1928 – two years after he had established The Western Oil Examiner, Calgary’s first oil industry newspaper.

    In addition to his newspaper interests, Ev Marshall was also one of the first secretaries of the Calgary Volunteer Fire Brigade, and in the late 1890s, he played hockey for both Calgary’s Press hockey club and the Brigade hockey team. At this point, Marshall was not a goalie but a defenceman. It appears that he was the captain of the both teams in 1898, but while playing for the Brigade team on January 28, 1898, Marshall took a stick in the face while trying to check an opponent and lost his left eye.

    Despite the injury, Marshall continued to referee hockey games during the winter of 1899. (Insert your own referee joke here!) There’s no story as to why he chose to make his first appearance as a player as the goalie for the Press team on March 16, 1899, but clearly the reason he chose to wear a catcher’s mask must have been to protect his right eye (and his glass left eye too).

    Everett D. Marshall played what appears to be the last game of his hockey career for a team called the Nonpareils against a C.P. Railway team on April 3, 1899. No mention of a mask in this one (although I suspect he wore one), but his work in goal was said to be “very fine.”

    [For the original post, complete with images and links, please visit ericzweig.com.]
     
    Last edited by moderator Theokritos: Dec 4, 2020
  2. Theokritos Global Moderator

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    Thanks for joining us!

    A very interesting story. So whether it was Hiscock or Marshall, the earliest known date when a goaltender played with a mask was 1899.
     
  3. Eric Zweig Registered User

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    Earliest known date ... so far!
     
  4. Theokritos Global Moderator

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    Right! That leaves us with 24 years since the historic 1875 game at the Victoria Rink that could hold more potential finds.
     
  5. Doctor No Registered User

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    This is solid stuff - great to have you here, Eric!
     
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  6. tarheelhockey Offside Review Specialist

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    I second that. This recent influx of talent is great to see.
     
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  7. hacksaw7 Registered User

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    Andy Brown going maskless until 1977 in the WHA is still absolutely stunning to me. I wonder if there was another goalie somewhere... maybe in Europe or some minor league who went maskless longer?
     
  8. GammaAway Registered User

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    And that's only official organized hockey. For all we know, someone wrote a letter in 1833 describing to his uncle how his brother wore something on the pond.
     
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  9. Iapyi Registered User

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    fyi - I don't think there is a protocol/etiquette for posting your name/moniker in a thread title.

    A fun read in the OP though.
     
  10. Theokritos Global Moderator

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    He didn't actually do that, but I edited the name into the title. Since we have an agreement that he shares entries from his blog on our forum and we turn them into articles here, it's only right to highlight it.
     
  11. Iapyi Registered User

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    All cool. I just meant to be friendly about it so he didn't appear like a prima donna. Glad to hear this fact and I appreciate your clarification.
     
  12. Bear of Bad News HFBoards Escape Goat

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    Yes, this has been not only approved, but encouraged.
     
  13. JackSlater Registered User

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    Interesting read, thanks for sharing. The colourful descriptions you can find in old newspaper articles can be pretty entertaining.
     
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  14. Sanf Registered User

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    Great work!

    I stumbled to Eddie Giroux mask experimentations some years ago too. He also apparently experimented "glove" too.

    The Ottawa Citizen 11 Nov. 1905

    Eddie Giroux will doff the baseball mitt and mask and with cricket pads and gloves get into the canary cage.

    I also have found quite many cases of goalie wearing mask prior to Elisabeth Graham (which I guess is still the HHOF:s claim to be the first to wear mask). Ivor Anderson, Lawrence Jones, Harry Stewart... few from memory. This was the first time I heard about Ev Marshall. Thats a good find!

    I once was determined to find usage of mask from U.S. Especially from Massachusetts. Mainly due to catcher mask being invented there (If that is correct). Mask was used (or tried) by several goalies in Roller Polo in that area too. But hockey was in child shoes at the time and reporting of the games short and scarce.

    Few examples of Roller Polo goalies wearing mask.

    Pawtucket goalie Lations

    The Boston Globe 22 feb 1895
    Lations played the game with a baseball mask to protect his face, creating quite a sensation when appeared.

    Fall River Globe 3 Dec 1895
    The accident to Mills of the Fall Rivers has again given rise to the question about some protection for the face of the goal tend. McCarthy once tried to mask after his face had beep severely injured, but it did not work.

    John Smith of New Bedford (IIRC)

    Record-Journal 25 feb 1897
    John Smith has decided to wear a baseball mask hereafter. Smith objects to taking chances of getting one of those hot ones on the point of the chin for a knockout. Thay say the star goal tend has lost his sand when facing hot ones. -Pawtucket Times
     
  15. Eric Zweig Registered User

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    It IS pretty amazing that Brown was still playing without a mask so long. It's hard to believe there would have been anyone else, but it's an interesting thought! Maybe somewhere where the game was less developed?
     
  16. Eric Zweig Registered User

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    If you click on one of the links in my story, you come to something else I'd written about masks that mentions a roller polo goalie ... but that's not until 1906! As I noted there, perhaps the fact that hockey was not nearly as widely popular in the United States as it was in Canada, and was played mainly at elite schools and swank athletic clubs, meant Americans were less hung up on the “manly” aspects of the game?

    The Giroux story is interesting ... though unless the full article has more, it's hard to know what kind of "gloves" they mean. A baseball-style catching glove, or just the regular gloves a goalie wore at the time?
     
  17. Sanf Registered User

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    It is possible. Pride was certainly factor why mask didn´t became popular earlier.

    Yeah using mask was constant talk in Roller Polo circles. I believe this is the first one that I have found when Billy McCarthy used mask in 1892

    The Boston Globe 14. Dec 1892

    Goal tend McCarthy of the Providence team is laid up with bruised nose.

    The goal tenders should wear catchers masks.


    The Boston Globe 21. Dec 1892
    McCarthy made his reappearence in the goal, wearing a base ball mask...


    In fact in 1903 William Bannon modified the first "polo mask". He got credits from the Western League and I believe the mask was made mandatory.

    Couple of articles about that.

    The Meriden Daily Journal 8. Dec 1903
    Goaltender Billy Bannon, member of the famous Bannon family and brother of the New Haven baseball player of the Indianapolis team is the originator of the polo mask. He made one last summer, and while he has never used it in a game has tried it in practice and pronounces success. The mask is made of much heavier wire than a baseball mask and sets closer to the face; as a result the meshes do not confuse the wearer or cause hik to blink, as does a man wearing a baseball mask for the first time. "I have full confidence in the mask and believe that with a little practice all of the goaltenders would be able to work just as well in a mask as without one," said Bannon. "I have caught behind the bat and a mask does not bother me in the least. While I believe that all of the goaltends should wear masks I have hesitated to establish the precedent. Now that the sentiment is in favor of the maskl, however, I shall probably wear mine in one of the games this week."

    The Indianapolis Journal 13. Dec 1903
    The Western League magnates and officials should by all means enforce the cage guardians to wear masks. Bannon, of Indianapolis, has demonstrated that a goal tender can wear a mask and succesfully stop the ball. The other goal tenders who have not in former years worn a mask can adapt themselves to it in a very few games and suffer no inconvenience whatever.

    The Journal 24. Mar 1904

    For his polo invention, Bill Bannon, the former Derby baseball player, has been honored. The officials of the Wester league, where Bannon is playing with Indianapolis, had a meeting recently and the followin letter was sent to Bannon;

    "Dear Sir-At a meeting of the directors of the Wester Roller Polo league a vote of thanks was officially extended to you for inventing a mask, for goaltenders, which has been tried and found eminently succesful. The accident avoided by the use of the same have demonstrated its great value. We, one and all, thank you for your part in giving to the game of polo this greatly needed protection."
     
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  18. Eric Zweig Registered User

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    Very interesting.
    It does seem strange that baseball catcher's masks were pretty common by the 1880s and hockey goalies didn't really start wearing masks until the 1960s! (Yeah, there were probably more problems with shadows and things in indoor hockey rinks in the earlier days than there were with outdoor, day time baseball games. But (again, check the About Face story on my web site) there definitely were people as early as 1912 advocating for masks. Even Conn Smythe spoke in favour of them in 1929...
     
  19. Sanf Registered User

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    Yep I did read that (another great work) some years ago and I have seen some of those in my own researches too.

    I have this opinion from Percy LeSueur from 1912. Apparently around same time that the other discussion was had.

    The Ottawa Journal 15. Feb 1912

    Percy Lesueur, the Ottawa net guardian, and famed wherever hockey is known, laughs at the idea of a mask. "I have been playing for some time and have never felt the need of it." he said. "A mask would interfere with a goal tender´s view, and, anyway, when did goal tender ever recieved any serious injury by being hit with a puck? Not for a long time in big league hockey."

    I can not found it now, but when hockey was brought back to St. Louis in 1917 the newspapers in city claimed that the goalies would use mask. That was catched around other newspapers and pretty much laughed about. I could not find mentions from the game reports of actual mask use though. It was sort of city league, but had such veteran goalies like Joe Donnely (already at intermediates with M.A.A.A. and Wanderers in early 1900´s).

    I have also article around the same time as that Conn Smythe comments. Connell, "Dolly" Dolson and Herb Stuart gives their opinion about masks. Forward pass became a thing and that Lorne Chabot injury was still fresh in the memory.

    The Border Cities Star November 22. 1929

    ALEC CONNELL, that wizard goal-keeper of the Ottawa Senators, "Dolly" Dolson of the Cougars and Herbie Stuart of the Olympics are three prominent professional caretakers who see the increased danger to themselves under the forward pass in front of them. At Olympia the other night the writer talked masks and more masks for goalies with the three. All admitted face protectors would be welcome by them; but added "the trouble is to find a mask suitabele for hockey."

    Of the three, only "Dolly" Dolson had ever seen a goal-tender wearing a mask in a game. "But the boy I saw wearing the face protector was doing so to protect a broken nosem and not for general safety." Dolson said.

    Dolson and Stuart were quick to point out that as far as they knew, no effort had been made by anybody devise a mask that would provide the goal-tender clear vision not only from the front but from the side as well. Baseball masks, both agreed, would never do, since they permit clear vision from the front but not from the sides where most of the shots in hockey come. Dolson also pointed out that an improvised baseball mask would the to cast a shadow across the goalies eyes.

    Connell of the Senators showed sonsiderable interest in the suggestion and ventured the hope that somebody would follow up with a device of some kind. The Ottawa goalie, who carries several nasty scars received in hockey from flying pucks, added he would be willing to give such a mask a trial if it did not impair his vision.
     
  20. FerrisRox "Wanna go, Prettyboy?"

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    In terms of "the first goalie to wear a mask" for the next generation of masks (the current kind of mask/half mask, half cage) Dave Dryden was the designer (in collaboration with Greg Harrison) for this hybrid style back in 1977 and he would then wear it while with the WHA's Oilers.

    There are pictures of him wearing it in the WHA with the Oilers (Orange crest rather than Blue) meaning that he had one on at least as early as 1978-79, though the date given for when he and Harrison made one was '77, so did he wear it a year earlier in '77-'78? (There is also photographic evidence that Ken wore one as well, though I'm not sure if he ever wore it in an official game or a pre-season game, but that would also put it, at the earliest, in 1978-79.)

    Eddie Mio was another earlier adopter with the Oilers (perhaps because of Dryden?) but I don't know whether he wore it during the final WHA season ('78-'79) but he definitely had it on for their first NHL season the following year.

    The other early fans of this mask were all into the early to mid 1980's. Guys like Gilles Meloche (wore it in the 1981-82 season for sure) Rick Wamsley, (definitely wearing it by '82-'83) Denis Herron, Marco Baron (wore it in the 1980-81 season for sure)

    Does anyone know the timeline for these masks in the NHL beyond Dave Dryden?
     
  21. Eric Zweig Registered User

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    VERY interesting!
     
  22. Eric Zweig Registered User

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    This is going in the backwards direction from what you're looking for, but Jake Dupuis from Penetanguishene, Ontario, designed a hybrid mask very similar to what we'd see later from Dave Dryden and beyond ... but he did it in 1973!

    http://www.pshof.ca/uploads/6/8/9/5/6895306/the_masked_man_from_penetanguishene_pdf.pdf
     
  23. FerrisRox "Wanna go, Prettyboy?"

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    I forgot Phil Myre. He wore one with the Flyers starting in 1980 and also for the Rockies and Sabres.
     

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