August 17, 2014

1959-60: Face Of Hockey Changes

The Three Stars:

Jacques Plante Becomes Masked Marvel - Montreal Canadiens superstar goalie Jacques Plante literally changes the face of hockey when he becomes the first goalie to wear a mask full time in the NHL. After being cut for seven stitches courtesy of a Andy Bathgate shot in a game vs. the Rangers, Plante returns to the game wearing a custom made fiberglass mask he had been experimenting with in practice. Though his coach Toe Blake did not like him using the mask in games at first, an 11 game unbeaten streak quickly changes their mind.

Fifth Straight Cup For Hockey's Best-Ever Team: Plante backstops the Canadiens to a fifth consecutive Stanley Cup championship and the unofficial title as hockey's best team ever. The Habs swept  both Chicago and Toronto to win the Cup in 8 straight games. Rocket Richard accepts the Stanley Cup and retires soon after.

Red Kelly Traded Twice In Five Days: At the beginning of the 1950s decade Red Kelly was undeniably hockey's best defenseman. By the beginning of the 1960s he was unthinkably traded - twice - and converted to center ice. The Red Wings first moved Kelly (and forward Billy McNeil) to the New York Rangers for Bill Gadsby and Eddie Shack. But both Kelly and McNeil refuse to report and retire. Five days later the Toronto Maple Leafs convince Kelly to play for them, and trade Marc Reaume to get him. The Leafs immediately turn him to a two-way center extraordinaire.

Season Highlights:
  • The 1960 Winter Olympics are held in Squaw Valley, California and features a surprise American hockey team upsetting the powerful Soviet team to win the first Olympic gold medal in USA hockey history.
  • Jack McCartan becomes an intriguing name in the hockey world. The hero of the 1960 gold medal Olympian Team USA hockey team joins the New York Rangers at the end of the season. The goalie showed promise, but the following season floundered and soon exited the NHL scene forever.
  • New names top the NHL scoring race as Bobby Hull edges out Bronco Horvath for the Art Ross Trophy. Both tie for the goal scoring lead with 39. Don McKenney leads all players with 49 assists.
  • Gordie Howe, now finally accepting the team's captaincy, wins the Hart Trophy.
  • The New York Rangers suffer a terrible start, winning just 3 of their first 15 games. Coach Phil Watson is hospitalized with severe ulcers and never returns. Alf Pike is the new coach.
  • The NHL introduces a new rule prohibiting players from leaving the bench to join a fight on the ice.

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