Jacques Plante's contributions to the game of hockey, as both a player and innovator, are substantial.
Of course Plante's greatest contribution and innovation was the goalie mask. He wasn't the first goalie ever to use one, but he was the first to permanently adopt a practical face mask. Prior to this time, goalies would bravely (foolishly?) stand in their net and stop flying pieces of frozen rubber with nothing to protect their face. Now goalie masks are even being used by baseball catchers.
Ironically, by hiding his face behind a mask Jacques Plante became one of the most recognized figures in sporting history.
Full Jacques Plante Biography