Face gear arrived in hockey in 1929, when Boston Bruins goalie Clint Benedict wore a leather nosepiece to protect his broken schnoz. It didn't catch on. "The second his nose healed, he took it off," said Phil Pritchard, curator of Toronto's Hockey Hall of Fame. "There wasn't any face gear after that until 1959."
It was 1959 when Montreal goalie Jacques Plante wore a mask. Plante's standing was exceptional—he's considered the game's greatest goalie—yet the small fiberglass mask that covered the area from his forehead to below his cheeks didn't catch on either. Not right away. In fact, it wasn't until 1974, when Ray Brown of the Pittsburgh Penguins put on a mask, that every NHL goalie was finally wearing some kind of facial equipment.
"People take masks for granted, but that was only 26 years ago," Pritchard said. "Old habits die hard in hockey."
Rucchin was expected to be back on the Mighty Ducks roster this week. Will he be wearing a half shield?
"He will now," said a team spokesman.
Which means that if the events of Nov. 15 somehow repeat themselves and Rucchin takes a puck to the face, his half shield won't make a damn bit of difference, and the doctors will be left scratching their heads once again.