The Mask

The Original Mask

        The Mask was designed to contour and fit tightly to Esposito's face.  It was intended to protect his face from severe injury, like broken bones or jagged cuts.  It was not designed to protect from facial cuts.   If hit by a hard shot in the face,  such as the eyebrow or the chin, a straight smooth cut was the result.  Actually, Esposito's facial bone would cut him from the inside out due to the impact of the puck.  Fortunately, the cut was straight and easy to stitch up.  Hence, the mask performed its job.

                                                  1st Addition - The Cage

tony-mask2.JPG (31492 bytes)In the 1974-75 season with the Chicago Black Hawks, Esposito was hit in the left eye three times.  After being hit the third
time, he had blurred vision for over 1 hour.  Esposito designed a  cage that was added over top his mask in front of his eyes.  If you notice today's modern day goaltender wears a variation of Tony's addition,  kind of a hybrid face mask and cage. The proto-type for the  modern day goalie mask was born.

2nd Addition - The Head Piece

In that same year, after Tony put on the cage, he added an extension to the top of his face mask that comes back over the top of his head for added protection.  Again, another Esposito design that is evident in today's modern face mask.

The Goalie Pants

     1st Addition - Spider Web

     In 1969 Tony added a new piece of equipment to his goalie pants.  He sewed a  piece of elastic mesh, about 12 X 6 inches, between the legs of his goalie pants.  It was basically a web between his legs to eliminate goals through the five hole. During a game a shot caught his web and rebounded back at the opposing player nearly hitting him in the face.  It was used until the NHL scrambled to make a new rule outlawing its use. 

     2nd Addition - Sponge

In order to compensate for the lose of the web between his legs, Esposito decided to sew in two big rolls of sponge (approximately 2 inches wide each) to the inside legs of his goal pants.  This would close the five hole when he went down on his knees.  Today many of the goalie pants resemble this little innovation.

The Neck Piece

In 1971 Esposito was hit with a slap shot in practice by Lou Angotti, who happens to be a close friend of Tony's, right square on the Adams apple.  " I thought I was dead", said Esposito.  The puck luckily didn't cut him , but it severely bruised him and he had trouble breathing because of the swelling.  It also affected his voice a little. It made his voice a little raspy and it is a reminder to this day.  Thanks Lou!  To compensate he added a neck piece of his own design.

The Catching Glove

In the early 70's everyone used the same catching glove.   Esposito noted one day that the sleeve of his glove was about 41/2 inches wide and that pucks would deflect off it into the net on occasion.  Esposito decided to do some research.  He study the NHL rules book on the dimension of the goal gloves and it stated " that the gloves can not be more than 8 inches wide.  The rule book did not differentiate between the blocker and catching glove.  Esposito thought, " Why am I using a catching glove that's 41/2 inches wide when I can be using one that's 8 inches wide?"   Esposito designed a piece of orthoplast ( a hard plastic ) which when heated in boiling water can be shaped to conform to the desired form.   After shaping it Esposito sewed it to the bottom part of the catching glove so that the bottom was flush with the top of the mitt.  Now the whole glove was 8 inches wide.  The area on the top of the glove sleeve, approximately 31/2 inches, protruded above the top of the sleeve of the catching glove.  The piece of orthoplast that Esposito attached to his sleeve was curved upward so that if the puck hit it, it would be deflected out away from the goal.  The new catching glove still conformed to the 8 inch rule, but many teams protested and the glove was checked by NHL officials who rules the glove legal.     A year or so later a glove manufacture developed a glove with web that went from the top of the trapper to the sleeve which made the glove 8 inches wide from top to bottom.  Unfortunately Esposito never patent any of these ideas,  but should be considered the mastermind behind the modern catching glove.

The Goal Pads

Esposito pads where custom made by Kenesky, which were the ultimate pad in the 60's and 70's.  The new pads where about 12 inches wide.   Esposito would take each pad and on the inside leg would remove the stitching.   He would then take a bag of kapok ( used in furniture stuffing and is very light ) and stuff each pad from top to bottom with as much as he could put in.  Then Esposito would take a piece of leather and sew the opening closed.  This would add about 3 additional inches to the width of his pads.  However what most people did not know was the for the play-offs all equipment is checked for legality.  Esposito along with the Black Hawks trainers would squish his pads with heavy weights to compact them and just before they would be checked the would take the weights off so that they would pass inspection.  As soon as the officials left Esposito would fluff them back up for the game.              

Copyrightę2004 Esposito's Legends of Hockey
3 Point Limited LLC 2004