Friday, February 20, 2015
Clint Benedict of the Montreal Maroons not only became the first goaltender in the NHL to reach 20 career shutouts, but he was also the first goaltender to wear a protective mask in an NHL game, which occurred on this date in 1930.
While Benedict reached 20 NHL shutouts in 1925, he actually had 23 career shutouts at that point, as the NHL had only been formed in 1917, and his professional career dated back to the 1912-13 season when he joined the Ottawa Senators of the National Hockey Association.
He would back up future Hall of Famer Percy LeSueur for two seasons until taking over as the starter in 1914, leading the NHA in Goals Against Average for three consecutive seasons and recording four shutouts in five seasons.
The 1914-15 Ottawa Senators. Benedict is in the middle row on the right.
Following the 1916-17 season, the NHA would disband and the Senators would join the newly formed National Hockey League. As part of the NHL, the Senators would win the Stanley Cup in 1920, 1921 and 1923 with Benedict as their goaltender. He would also lead the NHL in wins for six of his seven seasons with the Senators after joining the new league.
The relationship between Benedict and the Senators would sour over the matter of Benedict's drinking, which included the Senators withholding some of his salary as a result. When Benedict sued the club, they countersued and Benedict's problems were revealed and the relationship damaged beyond repair.
As a result, Benedict was traded to the Montreal Maroons in time for their inaugural season in 1924-25 with his NHL career shutout total standing at 18. After a previous shutout, Benedict would get his 20th NHL shutout on January 20, 1925, the first goaltender in the NHL to reach that milestone.
1924-25 Montreal Maroons
The following season of 1925-26 saw Benedict add six more shutouts to his total and lead the Maroons to their first Stanley Cup championship while recording three shutouts in four games against the Victoria Cougars.
The Stanley Cup Champion 1925-26 Montreal Maroons
The next season Benedict would record 13 shutouts in 43 games and two seasons later add 11 more to his tally as scoring in the NHL reached a low point, as Toronto's Ace Bailey led the league with 22 goals and 32 points.
Forward passing was now allowed in the attacking zone for the 1929-30 NHL season and Cooney Weiland led the league with 43 goals and 73 points and shutouts were obviously negatively affected, Benedict in particular, as his total went from 11 to zero in his final NHL season.
Benedict earned his place in hockey lore on this date in 1930 when, following being hit in the face by a shot from the Montreal Canadiens Howie Morenz on January 5th, which broke his nose and fractured his cheek, he returned to the ice six weeks later on this date in 1930 against the New York Americans, now wearing a protective facemask based on one used by boxing sparring partners. His use of the mask was short-lived. Varying accounts claim he wore it for one, two or even as many as five games, modifying the mask and even trying different styles, before giving up on the idea of wearing a mask due to them restricting his vision.
"The nosepiece protruded too far and obscured my vision on low shots," Benedict said. After losing 2-0 to Chicago on February 25th wearing it, "I threw the darn thing away. I blamed it for the loss and that was that." He then tried a wire cage-style protector, like a baseball catcher's mask, "but the wires distracted me. That's when I gave up."
He was again injured on March 4th in a game against Ottawa when he got hit in the face during a goalmouth scramble, which proved to be his final NHL game as well as his reported final (of five) games wearing a mask.
If the reports of five games is accurate, Benedict would have tied the Americans in the first game, defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-4 in the second, lost to Chicago 2-0 in the final game for the leather mask, again defeated the Maroons 5-1 on March 1st before leaving the game on March 4th, a 6-2 defeat by the Senators for a record of 2-2-1 in the five games while wearing a mask of some style.
He played one final season for the Windsor Bulldogs of the IHL before retiring as a player.
Benedict finished his NHL career with 190 wins and 28 ties, along with 57 shutouts in 362 games, holds numerous Maroons goaltending records, including most wins, shutouts and lowest goals against average, and won four Stanley Cups. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1965.
Today's featured jersey is a 1924-25 Montreal Maroons Clint Benedict jersey from the Maroons first season, and the one in which Benedict would become the first to reach the 20 shutout mark in NHL history.
The Maroons sweaters in their inaugural season read "MONTREAL" across the front, rather than the more familiar "M" logo that they would adopt for their second season and continue to wear for the remainder of the franchise's remaining 13 seasons.
Our video selection today is a trip through time and a look at the Evolution of the Goalie Mask. Hopefully you will see some forgotten favorites from the days of the early paint jobs on the full face mask.