You’d think something as simple as who was the first goalie in hockey history to wear a mask would be an easy question to answer. It’s not. In fact, it’s been surprisingly difficult to nail down.
Jacques Plante — though he popularized the concept for modern goalies — was certainly not the first to wear one. Clint Benedict (who I’ve argued in the past was a better goalie than Georges Vezina, the NHL’s goaltending trophy namesake) was probably the first NHL goaltender to wear a mask when he put one on for a few games late in the 1929–30 season to protect a frequently broken nose. My friend and colleague Stephen Smith, on his Puckstruck web site several years ago, wondered if George Hainsworth (another early era great) might have actually preceded Benedict by a year. He may have, although Stephen concludes that Hainsworth was more likely to have been wearing an elaborate bandage to protect his own broken nose.
For a while, the trendy answer to who was the first goalie to wear a mask was Elizabeth Graham, who is known to have worn a fencing mask while playing goal for the Queen’s University women’s hockey team in 1927. However, others (including another woman, Corinne Hardman of Montreal’s Western Ladies Hockey Club in 1916) had been known to wear masks before that.
I wrote about the early history of goalie masks several years ago, although Corinne Hardman was new on me thanks to another Stephen Smith story from last year. Stephen’s story also pushed back my earliest knowledge (which had previously been of Eddie Giroux wearing a baseball catcher’s mask in practice with the Toronto Marlboros in December of 1903 to protect a cut on his face) to 1899. But that’s where the story gets murky once again.
The Ottawa Citizen of January 23, 1899, picked up a story from the Kingston Times claiming that goalie Edgar Hiscock of the Frontenacs had recently broken his nose and would be forced to wear a baseball mask in his coming games.
IF Hiscock did wear a mask in a game, he would appear to be the first … or, at least, the earliest discovery made so far. However, nobody that I’m aware of has found an account of any subsequent Kingston games that actually confirms Hiscock wore one! His name certainly appears in several game summaries during the rest of the hockey season, but there’s no mention of wearing a mask. (Admittedly, I’ve only been able to check myself in online sources. Perhaps Kingston newspapers on microfilm have something, but it doesn’t appear that anyone has found anything yet.)
If Hiscock didn’t wear a mask in any of the games before the Kingston Frontenacs wrapped up their season by defeating Guelph 5–2 for the OHA Intermediate championship on March 6, 1899, then another name moves to the top of the “first” list. Another Intermediate champion (probably of the city of Calgary): Ev Marshall.
Marshall’s case is clearly confirmed by the Calgary Herald of March 17, 1899, which reported that he wore a baseball mask while playing goal for the local Press hockey club in the championship game against a team of picked stars from other Calgary clubs the night before.
Turns out that Ev Marshall (Everett Douglas Marshall to be exact) is a pretty interesting guy!
Marshall (all this information comes from his obituary in the Calgary Herald from August 25, 1949 after his death the night before) was born in Megantic County, Quebec, on December 19, 1875*. Although there seems to be some conflicting information as to when his father died, it appears to have been before Everett’s mother brought her only child with her to settle in the Calgary area in 1885, just one year after Calgary had been officially incorporated as a town.
[* Daniel Doyon found birth records showing that Everett Marshall was actually born three years earlier, on December 19, 1872, in Inverness, Quebec, which is part of Megantic County.]
By 1888, young Everett was one of three delivery boys working for the Calgary Herald. He soon apprenticed as a printer’s devil and later he and M.C. “Mike” Costello (a future mayor of Calgary) became the first printers in Calgary to operate a linotype machine, which eliminated the need for printers to lay out a newspaper by hand. After 1894, Ev took on editorial duties as well, and would briefly serve as the Herald’s editor. He later set up his own paper, The Market Examiner, in 1917, in partnership with the Herald’s first women’s and society page editor, Jean A. Grant, whom he married in 1928 – two years after he had established The Western Oil Examiner, Calgary’s first oil industry newspaper.
In addition to his newspaper interests, Ev Marshall was also one of the first secretaries of the Calgary Volunteer Fire Brigade, and in the late 1890s, he played hockey for both Calgary’s Press hockey club and the Brigade hockey team. At this point, Marshall was not a goalie but a defenceman. It appears that he was the captain of the both teams in 1898, but while playing for the Brigade team on January 28, 1898, Marshall took a stick in the face while trying to check an opponent and lost his left eye.
Despite the injury, Marshall continued to referee hockey games during the winter of 1899. (Insert your own referee joke here!) There’s no story as to why he chose to make his first appearance as a player as the goalie for the Press team on March 16, 1899, but clearly the reason he chose to wear a catcher’s mask must have been to protect his right eye (and his glass left eye too).
Everett D. Marshall played what appears to be the last game of his hockey career for a team called the Nonpareils against a C.P. Railway team on April 3, 1899. No mention of a mask in this one (although I suspect he wore one), but his work in goal was said to be “very fine.”