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50 Forgotten Stories: The Case of the Missing Mask

by Sheng Peng @Sheng_Peng /

In hockey, it's the goalies who are supposed to be the robbers. However, in the case of the LA Kings, it's been the goalies who have been robbed.

Most recently, it was Mathieu Garon this year, who three years after his last NHL game and almost a decade since donning the crown, found a familiar mask on e-Bay:

Tweet from @OuiOui_32: I remember having a mask stolen from me when I played for the @LAKings. I guess someone found it!


The good-natured Garon offered to autograph the mask to increase its re-sale value.

Not as happily, Stephane Fiset had his Pharaoh mask stolen in January 1997.

What was particularly galling about this theft was that it occurred just days before his first game back in Colorado after the Avs had traded him to Los Angeles during the summer. Fiset had to suffer the indignity of wearing an Avalanche mask with strategically-placed Kings stickers as he was pelted by 50 shots in a 6-3 loss.

It would be nearly a month before Fiset could exchange his Franken-mask, as celebrated mask artist Michel Lefebvre, who also designed Garon's, happened to be on vacation.

At least Garon and Fiset had a back-up that they could rely on. When Gerry Desjardins's $25 mask (that's $164 today) was lifted from LA's locker room during a pre-Halloween 1969 Lakers-Chicago Bulls showdown at the Forum, the Kings were "confronted with the problem of getting another mask fitted" just days before they faced the Detroit Red Wings. The organization offered a "substantial reward" with "no questions asked" for its return. ("Goalie's Mask Taken from Dressing Room." Redland Daily Facts, October 28, 1969.)

Luckily for Desjardins, Warren Winkler happened upon "a group of children playing with the face mask" just hours before Los Angeles was to hit the ice against Detroit. On return of the face covering, Winkler was rewarded with a $25 check and a pair of tickets to the Kings-Wings showdown. (Redland Daily Facts, October 30, 1969.)

It would be more trick than treat for Desjardins, however, as he gave up Gordie Howe's 736th NHL goal in a 5-2 loss.



But anyway, it's not the mask's job to win games. Its job is a little more crucial, as Desjardins would discover right after the Detroit tilt.

Remember that those were the days when goalie masks were still becoming the norm. After Jacques Plante popularized it in 1959, a decade later, seven of 25 NHL keepers still played without protection. Famously, Hall of Famer Gump Worsley scolded, "Anybody who wears a mask is scared." ("Plante Knew Masks Would Stick." Associated Press, November 23, 1969.)

Anyway, the Chicago Black Hawks rolled into Los Angeles, armed with Dennis Hull's infamous slap shot (Bobby happened to be holding out). How infamous? Cesare Maniago of the Minnesota North Stars only wore his mask against the Hawks because of the Hull brothers.

In the game, Hull ripped a shot off Desjardins's mask. The Kings fell 4-1, but you couldn't blame the netminder if his thoughts were elsewhere. "Desjardins fingered the mask later and said incredulously, 'It woulda killed me!' "

Thank you, Warren Winkler!


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Sheng Peng is a freelance hockey writer based out of Los Angeles, California. He covers the LA Kings and Ontario Reign for Today's Slapshot. His work has also appeared on VICE Sports, The Hockey News, and SB Nation's Jewels from the Crown.

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