It’s Throwback Thursday, #tbt, and this weeks Boston Pucks installment is the classic brown goalie gear. These bad boys are about as old school as it gets. Youth hockey organizations everywhere recycled sets of these pads each season from their equipment storage like towns would with Little League catcher gear. And I loved seeing a set of worn and dirty pads when I was a kid. Let’s look at a few iconic examples we all know:
First is Ron Hextall, one of my favorites. In his rookie season in 1987 Hextall won the Conn Smythe Trophy and Vezina Trophy. And this action shot really captures it all. This was toward the end of the brown pad era. The heavy, heavy leg pads would absorb every drop of water on the ice making it feel like you had wet laundry bags strapped to your legs. He also rocked the “waffle” style blocker that displayed the evenly spaced white dots. And of course his Cooper catching glove had the “cheater” on it as well; a leather piece that connected the thumb to the wrist.
Then there’s the legend Ken Dryden. Look at how much net there was back in the day. Pre-80’s NHL, this photo emphasizes the smaller pads, where you can actually see the separation from the pants and leg pad. Modern day pads come up above the pants, and even have added padding atop the knee. This is also a pre-cheater era catching glove photo. Notice no connection from the thumb to the wrist leaving that space open to beat a slow glove hand like it was an oven mitt. Although Dryden wasn’t slow at all; winning 6 Stanley Cups in the 1970’s, including a Conn Smythe Trophy in his first Stanley Cup Final.
And last but not least, going back even further, is Terry Sawchuk. Sawchuk played for 4 of the “Original Six” franchises, capturing 4 Stanley Cups which included the 1967 Cup for the Toronto Maple Leafs late in his career. His pads were about as dark as could be. This also shows the speckled blocker and the first baseman’s looking catcher glove. You can also see the tight sweaters that were worn then in comparison to the baggy jerseys in the modern era. The late 60’s era gear really set the standard and defined the classic goalie look, including the first wave of goalie masks.
All of today’s gear is far superior, far more protective, colorful, and light weight. But there is just something incredibly special about the old school look. There’s an element of romance and bravery in goaltending that forever shines on from the era of brown, heavy, worn goalie gear.