September 26, 2008

Interview With The Author: Jim Hynes of Saving Face: The Art and History Of The Goalie Mask

I'm lucky enough to have had a chat with Jim Hynes, one of the authors behind Saving Face: The Art and History of the Goalie Mask. Jim was kind enough to answer my questions about the book, the masks and the goalies.

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HBR - You give a thorough chronological history of the great innovators of the goalie mask - Clint Benedict, Jacques Plante, Delbert Louch, Bill Burchmore, Lefty Wilson, Ernie Higgins, Jim Homouth, Greg Harrison, Michel Lefebvre, Dave Dryden, Ed Cubberly, Jerry Wright, and then painters like Gerry Cheevers, Frank Cipra, Ray Bishop, and Todd Miska. Was there one man who was more instrumental in the development of the goalie mask than the others?

Jim Hynes: I have to give the tip of my CCM helmet there to Bill Burchmore. He came up with the idea of using fibreglass...and everyone else followed for the next 25 years. His masks were a little crude, Higgin's designs worked better, but Burchmore started The Fibreglass Revolution.

HBR - You detail the goaltender's fight for the right to use masks in games masterfully. In hindsight, do you think NHL coaches, managers and owners had any valid points in their opposition to the original use of masks?

Jim Hynes: Not really. Maybe they had a point about reduced vision...but that had to be offset by the safety factor. They were just acting like the 1950s buzz cut guys they were...arch-conservative, afraid of change.

HBR - What was the worst head injury suffered by a goalie not wearing a mask?

Jim Hynes: That's a tough one as much of this kind of thing is anecdotal and highly mythologized, which is part of the fun. The injury to Sawchuk when he was 17 has been highly people like me! But it sure sounds nasty. Eye injuries are too scary to contemplate.

HBR - Which goalie mask design is your favorite?

Jim Hynes: Dryden's first mask is a favourite. I was 6 in 1971 and can remember thinking how weird that masks was. I guess you could call it a modified pretzel-type--certainly one of a kind. I don't know how safe it was though. I like the way some of the bars are taped together.

HBR: If you had to rank the 5 most famous goalie masks of all time, which 5 would you choose?

Jim Hynes: That's tough: The first Plante mask is known by so many, heck, it's a Heritage Minute. Same for Sawchuk: he wore the one mask forever. Tony Esposito's mask was worn by a few others, including Plante, but anyone who sees it will say "Tony O". Next would be the Cheevers stitches mask. Even non-hockey fans know about it. Among the mpdern masks I'll give the nod to Belfour. You see the eagle, yo know it's Eddie.

HBR - Who has the best paint job today?

Jim Hynes: I'm not a huge fan of the wild, modern paint job. Plus some goalies seem to change them every 6 months now. I have a soft spot for Biron's Great Gaston lumberjack mask and I liked Huet's ghosts masks before he was traded to Washington...but that might just be the French Canadian Habs fanatic in me talking.

HBR - Not taking into account the mask, who is your favorite goalie of all time?

Jim Hynes: My favourite is Patrick Roy, not for his mask, but for the way he would compete. He wanted to win so badly,. You could tell just by looking at him.

HBR - The book features over 150 photos of goalie masks. But there are very few pictures of masks of the most modern goalies. Out of curiosity, why is that?

Jim Hynes: Two parts to that answer. The first one, sadly, is about money. Publishing photos is super expensive. We were fortunate to team up with the HHOF for ours, but there is a rule in place now where you have to buy any photo taken after a certain year (2000?, 2002?) from an official stock agency...and we did in a few cases...but they cost a fortune. The other thing is, as I said, neither I or Gary Smith, my co-author, are great fans of what he calls the "side of a van paint job." The modern gargoyle masks are pretty awesome, but you need a super close up to see them. Some of the classic designs could be seen from the nosebleed section. That said, the modern guys (and gals) are doing some amazing things with the airbrush. There are a number of websites where you can post pics of your favourite mask and debate other mask fanatics about their merits. So I say let's leave that with them.

HBR - If I was a goalie I'd have a simple target on my forehead with the Lord's prayer on the back plate. What would your mask look like?

Jim Hynes: A realistic reproduction of Gump Worsleys face, so that it would appear the Gumper was back, and maskless once more.

HBR - The goalie mask has changed significantly in the past 50 or so years since Jacques Plante first popularized it's use. Do you think we will see any significant changes in the coming years, or is the goalie mask more or less perfected?

Jim Hynes: You know, the way the blend Kevlar and fibreglass and other materials now, I think they have that part down. I know from talking to a few mask makers that they think they could still improve the padding, make it more shockproof. And they can improve the cage part of the combo masks too, because we still see the occasional bent bar.I believe it was Nabakov who got cut that way last season.

HBR - Here's the question I ask every author. What is your favorite hockey book not written by yourself?

Jim Hynes: It's not a very original answer but I love The Game by Ken Dryden; It blends a deeper look at hockey with good old fashioned hockey anecdotes...which just happen to be about one of the greatest teams of all time. Heck, the Guy Lapointe poofy hair story alone would push it to the top of the list.

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I have a soft spot for Biron's Great Gaston lumberjack mask and I liked Huet's hockey goalie masks before he was traded to Washington...but that might just be the French Canadian Habs fanatic in me talking.


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