This former New York Ranger Gets an Assist in Helping to Start a Trend

Jim Bay
New York Rangers
Feb 14, 2020; Columbus, Ohio, USA; New York Rangers center Ryan Strome (16) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the third period at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Many New York Ranger fans are familiar with Andy Bathgate who played 10 seasons with the Blueshirts from 1954 to 1963. Unfortunately, Bathgate was frustrated with the poor play of the Rangers during this time and was traded to Toronto during the 1963-64 season and promptly helped them win the Stanley Cup. But it was something that he did in a game that helped start a trend in hockey that continues to this day.

Bathgate had quite a reputation for having an extremely hard slap shot and that was made evident during a game on November 1, 1959, in a game against the Montreal Canadiens. In the first period, Canadiens goaltender Jacques Plante was struck in the face by a shot from Bathgate that required the Canadians netminder to receive some stitches. During the period in the NHL, goaltenders did not wear masks, leaving their heads open to injury. After being stitched up, Plante insisted that he wear a mask, something that he had done during practice but not in a game. Montreal head coach Toe Blake initially refused to allow him to wear it in a game, fearing it would inhibit his vision. Plante told Blake that he refused to play unless he could wear the fiberglass mask. Faced with a decision of letting his goalie wear a mask or try to scrape a goalie out of the stands. At that time, NHL teams did not employ back up goalies. Faced with the choice of letting his goals wear a mask, or the use the EBUG as we now know it, Blake let Plante play with the mask. Plante continued wearing a mask for the rest of his career, starting a trend that continues to this day, with the assist going to Andy Bathgate.

Of course, Bathgate is known for more than his hard slap shot leading to a change in goalie decor. In 2017 Bathgate was named one of the “100 Greatest NHL Players”. During his time with the Rangers, he was awarded the Hart Memorial Trophy for the MVP of the NHL in 1958–59 after scoring 40 goals, which was a great accomplishment during that period of NHL hockey. The Rangers retired his #9 along with Harry Howell’s #3 in a special ceremony before on February 22, 2009. Bathgate joined Adam Graves, whose number 9 had been hoisted to the MSG rafters 19 nights earlier. Graves has been quoted as saying that Bathgate is “the greatest Ranger to ever wear the number 9”.