Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Donald Rich - First Eastern Hockey League Astronaut

This may be my favorite Eastern Hockey League photo ever. It's of Donald Rich of the New York Rovers (who changed names to the Long Island Ducks 2 years later) from the 1959-60 EHL Yearbook.

It is surprising to see a mask on an EHL goalie in the 1950s. One has to wonder how effective clear plastic in 1959 was against a hard slapshot. Of course, the slapshot was probably pretty new back then, too.

It is also unusual to see a goalie in his mask for his team photo. I can only guess that neither the photographer nor the goaltender knew quite what to do with a masked goaltender, since this would have been one of the first masks ever. Perhaps they thought they could see his face more clearly than you can. Maybe Rich, who only played 5 EHL games, felt he needed to make a statement. Kind of like when I had a miniscule part in a play in college, and I and my cohort came out for the bows "in character", because we got more stage time there than in the actual play.

Rich's competition for starting goalie that initial 1959-60 Rovers season was some 19-year old kid named Ed Giacomen, (This is how the 1959-60 EHL Yearbook spells it. I saw it also spelled this way in a 1959-60 Rovers program on e-Bay recently, plus occasionally in the Utica/Clinton papers in that season, though the Washington Post got it right.) who we know as Ed Giacomin. Unfortunately, the 1959-60 EHL Yearbook says "(No Picture Available)" for Fast Eddie. That would have been one of my other favorite Eastern Hockey League photos.

1 comment:

  1. Don Rich, pictured with his 'mask' was playing junior hockey and was invited to the Rover training camp in the fall of 1959. He said the mask pic was entirely staged by Rovers GM Tommy Gorman to steal some headlines that were so focused on Jacques Plante's introduction of the mask to the NHL on 01 Nov 1959. Rich stated that he only wore the motorcycle mask for the photo and never wore it in practice or in competition.