Book Review: Saving Face


A goalie mask is as functional as it is visually appealing. It offers protection and allows self-expression. Perhaps that is why the goalie mask is arguably the most iconic piece of sports equipment; it serves a purpose, but is fun to look at too.

The same can be said about “Saving Face: The Art and History of the Goalie Mask.” Like the masks it chronicles, this book is as functional as it is visually appealing. Do not mistake “Saving Face” for mere eye candy: it is the ultimate history book on the subject of goalie masks.

Title: Saving Face: The Art and History of the Goalie Mask
Author: Jim Hynes & Gary Smith
Pages: 176 pages
Size: 8.75″ x 11.75″
Price: $29.95 (Hardcover)
Get it at Amazon for less
Kindle version also available
Publisher: Sports Publishing

“Saving Face” does not cut any corners. The large-format book is packed with full-color photos of hockey’s most iconic face wear: Gerry Cheevers’ “stitch” mask, Ed Belfour’s “eagle” mask, Gilles Gratton’s “lion” mask, Jacques Plante’s original mask and so many more. This book is worth the price of admission based on the pictures alone.

But the other aspect of “Saving Face” that makes it a must-have is its comprehensive history of the goalie mask. Coauthors Jim Hynes and Gary Smith recount the earliest instances of mask usage by goalies during the pre-NHL era or internationally — even delving a bit into the history of the baseball catcher’s mask, which found its way onto the ice on more than one occasion.

“Saving Face” then gives a thorough account of how the mask grew and changed, from the fiberglass mask that Bill Burchmore created for Jacques Plante, to the helmet and mask “birdcage” made famous by Vladislav Tretiak, to the combo-style mask developed by Dave Dryden and Greg Harrison. Even that funny-looking “mage” worn by Tim Thomas a few seasons ago is discussed in detail.

Hynes and Smith also profile every notable mask maker, from the legendary Greg Harrison to modern-era mask maestro David Gunnarsson, to practically anyone who built or designed a mask for an NHL player.

Excerpts from “Saving Face”: Although the book is extremely informative, a passage of text alone would do it no justice; you need to see what this book looks like on the inside to understand how cool it is.

Masks of Gilles Meloche and Murray Bannerman. (Click to enlarge)
Ken Dryden’s original mask and a profile on Jim Homuth. (Click to enlarge)
Masks of Darren Pang and Ed Belfour. (Click to enlarge)

What I like about “Saving Face”:  Many pages have full-page photographs of iconic masks against a black background. This lets you to see more detail of these works of art and allows you to really appreciate them. The book is as thorough as it gets when it comes to the history of the goalie mask. Also, the book is big — but not so big that it won’t easily fit on a bookshelf. But you might want to leave this one out on your coffee table.

What I do not like about “Saving Face”: You can’t cut out and wear the masks. OK, you probably could, but all kidding aside, putting scissors anywhere near this masterpiece would be crazy. The cost– around $30, though cheaper at Amazon — might seem a bit pricey, but it is worth every penny.

Rating 5 out of 5

“Saving Face” is the be-all, end-all book about goalie masks. Every hockey fan, casual and passionate alike, will learn a lot from it and enjoy the photos within. It should be a part of any serious hockey book collection. 


Author: Sal Barry

Sal Barry is the editor and webmaster of Puck Junk. He is a freelance hockey writer, college professor and terrible hockey player. Follow him on Twitter @puckjunk

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Saving Face”

    1. Hi Wayne, thanks for the comment. I’m glad you enjoy my website, and that my review of “Saving Face” prompted you to seek it out. It is a great book!

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