One of the difficulties of the fibreglass mask was the eye holes. Goalies had trouble seeing, and would often enlarge the eyeholes to see better. The road to the “cage” effectively began with 1977 with Gerry Dejardins of the Buffalo Sabres. A puck clipped the eye of Gerry during a game, entering the hole and damaging his eye, effectively ending his career. Other goaltenders took note and were bothered by the injury. In 1978, the Canadian Standards association banned Fibreglass masks in minor hockey. A career ending injury to Bernie Parent in 1979 sealed the end of fibreglass.
Goaltenders slowly went to the cage mask design. Buffalo management demanded the cage for its goaltenders, and by the late eighties most goalies were wearing the helmet and cage design. The fibreglass mask would no longer see the ice surface-at least not in that form; fibreglass still had a role to play with goaltender equipment. Dave Dryden, brother of Hockey Hall Of Fame goaltender Ken Dryden, is credited with the combination mask and cage of modern day. After Dejardin’s injury, he went to a cage, however he had a complaint. The helmet didn’t fit him well, and he didn’t feel comfortable. He wanted the snug feel of the fibreglass mask. Putting his creativity to use, he cut out the eye and nose section of a fibreglass mask, and screwed a cage which he cut from a helmet onto the front. He took the mock-up to Greg Harrison, who saw exactly what he wanted, adding a more comfortable back plate to hold the mask to his head. It took a while for the mask to catch on, but by the mid eighties goalies were wearing the new “combo” mask, and mask makers once again were free to use the mask as a canvas. The mask hasn’t changed too much in the past thirty years since its advent. The material has changed from fibreglass to composite materials that include Kevlar. As have masks evolved, so have the artwork. From simple straight colours to anything from sharks to celebrities now get painted on the modern goalie mask. The modern goalie masks are truly works of art.