“Jacques Plante – The Man Who Changed The Face of Hockey” In-Depth Book Review

While this book is nine years old, it’s not like the subject matter has changed! As of 8/8/2019, this is still the definitive book on the life and times of Jacques Plante. Photo Credit: McClelland & Stewart

Greetings and salutations everyone and welcome to another blog here on BlueCollarBlueShirts.com.

On Friday, August 9th, I uploaded four new blogs to BlueCollarBlueShirts.com. Make sure to check them all out. Here they are:





While on the topic of previous blogs, here are my most recent blogs, in case you missed them or need a refresher:


While no one would ever rant & rave about Jacques Plante’s work with the Rangers, this is a blog ran by a Rangers fan! Photo Credit: NHL.com

When it comes to the name Jacques Plante, I have a general idea of who he was and pretty much know all about his career. Before reading Todd Denault’s “Jacques Plante: The Man Who Changed The Face of Hockey”, I thought I had a good grasp of Mr. Plante. However, while I had a decent amount of knowledge about Jacques Plante before diving into this book, when I completed this book, I came out with more knowledge than I had before.

In case you’re new here, let me share some details with you. I’m 37 years old. In other words, I never saw Plante play in-person. In fact, he passed away when I was four years old. However, I’m a huge fan of American, world and hockey history. I’ve read hundreds of books on hockey. The position that I gravitate to the most, the position I’m most fascinated about, is the goaltender position.

In fact, I’ve read countless books, watched old interviews, consumed old games and talked to hockey historians about the legendary players from other generations. To this day, I’m in frequent contact with the Frank Boucher family, as his eldest granddaughter shares Frank Boucher stories with me.

Oh, and in my last plug of this blog, you can read all my book & movie reviews by visiting: http://doinow.com/book-reviews/

Author Todd Denault is considered the official biographer of Jacques Plante. Photo Credit: EyeOnThePrize.com

The reason I plugged my previous reviews, is that because if you go through them, you will see that I’ve read Gump Worsley’s autobiography. I read the “Greatest Generation of Goalies” book, which covered all the goalies from the 1960’s. I’ve read the Sawchuk bio from David Dupuis. I’ve read up on Glenn Hall. I’ve done my own personal research on Chuck Rayner. I’ve watched tons of clips on YouTube, with this one being my favorite:

Note to self: Read the Johnny Bower book!

So where am I going with all of this? Before reading Todd Denault’s biography on Jacques Plante, I had an idea of who Plante was. He was the guy with all the eccentricities. He was the goalie to bring the mask to prominence.  He was the man who sewed. He was a loner. He was cheap. Gump Worsley hated him. He was never able to win a Cup after leaving Montreal. He didn’t make many friends.

Having a general characterization of Plante in my head, when I opened up Denault’s tome on Plante, I was looking for details on Plante, not just on-the-ice, but off-the-ice as well. While Plante succumbed to cancer at a young age in 1986, I was hoping to get his point-of-view on some of the stuff about him.

For someone like Todd Denault, this was a passion project. You don’t try to tackle a biography like this unless you have a deep-rooted love for what you’re writing about. That certainly comes off in this book. While I’m not 100% sure, I would bargain to say that Denault is a Canadiens fan. At the very least, it’s obvious that he’s a Jacques Plante fan.

When I finished “Jacques Plante: The Man Who Changed The Face of Hockey”, I had mixed-feelings. On one hand, this is a fantastic book. No one can argue about the hours and research Denault put into this book. However, at the same time, despite the book clocking in at 300+ pages, I was left wanting more. Not more in a “I hope there is a sequel” kind of way, but in a “that’s it?” kind of way. As we move along here, I’ll explain what I mean in detail.

Every day, whether it’s the “Hockey News”, this blog you’re reading, a Facebook group, a twitter post or wherever else you get your hockey content from, there is someone arguing about “who is the greatest goalie of all time?” Photo Credit: THN

When it comes to the question of “Who is the Greatest Goalie of All-Time?” it is a topic I’ve discussed ad-nauseam on this blog. In fact, I recently brought it up again in my Terry Sawchuk “Goalie” review.

Long-story short, as I don’t want to do this soap-box speech again, there is no right or definitive answer to this question. There have been just too many variables that have changed over the years. In 100+ years of the NHL, we’ve seen the rules change & evolve, the goalie gear change, the invention of the slap-shot, technological advances, the grind of travel getting easier for the modern athletes, blah blah blah and etc. Oh, and let’s not forget about the usage of the mask. When talking hockey, when you bring up the word mask, you have to talk Jacques Plante.

Since I’ve consumed so much content about NHL goalies, when the question of who was the best comes up, you can kind of predict the answer you’re going to get from someone. When I see this topic debated, the people arguing one way or the other, usually use their fandom & their generation to back-up their argument.

Simply put, an old-time Detroit fan will tell you Sawchuk is the best. A modern day Devils fan will tell you Brodeur was the best. An old-time Chicago or STL fan will tell you that Glenn Hall was the best. An 80’s fan may say that Patrick Roy was the best. A 90’s fan may say Dominik Hasek was the best. And let’s not forget that nationalities play into this too. A delusional Swedish fan may say Lundqvist is the best!

When it comes to this book, this book was no different than talking to a fan at some random bar. The author, in Todd Denault, argues that Jacques Plante was the greatest of all time. He hammers the point home by frequently using Red Fisher’s opinions of Plante. (For those who don’t know, Red Fisher covered Montreal Canadien hockey in seven different decades, starting his career in 1955. He was still writing about the Habs when he passed away in January of 2018, at 91 years old. In other words, Fisher’s opinion holds heavy weight!)

For NY fans, Red Fisher was basically the Stan Fischler of Montreal. Photo Credit: Montreal Canadiens

In the same way that I’ve just done a tangent on Red Fisher, in Denault’s book, he does the same thing with the legendary players that once wore the “bleu-blanc-rouge”. Guys like Toe Blake, Dick Irvin, Rocket Richard, Frank Selke, Doug Harvey, Henri Richard, Dickie Moore, Charlie Hodge, Bill Durnan, Jean Beliveau and countless others are discussed. However, as the book covers Plante’s stints with other teams, the profiles of the men Plante played with lessen. To be fair, Plante’s career with Montreal is what made him, so I can understand dedicating more time to the Hab years than Plante’s runs with the Rangers, Leafs or Bruins. (The book does cover Plante’s Blues run with more content, but ignored how Plante was forced to apologize after calling Glenn Hall “the best back-up in the NHL.)

The book, like most bios, covers Plante’s life chronologically. At this time, I’d like to share with you some of the highlights, at least in my opinion, from the book. As you’ll see, these pictures are pages from the book, with my comments from twitter underneath each picture.

NOTE: The following pictures come from “Jacques Plante: The Man Who Changed The Face of Hockey”. They are the property of Todd Denault & McClelland & Stewart. Since this book is 9 years old now, let’s hope they don’t sue me for using these pictures without expressed written consent! After all, all I’m trying to do is plug the book and increase sales!

While most people will say “the mask” whenever Plante’s name comes up, did you know that Plante won 7 Vezina Trophies, which is the most Vezina wins of all-time? Photo Credit: O’Pee Chee

Todd Denault, for a first-time author, did a very good job. I enjoyed this book. There was stuff in this book that I didn’t know, such as Plante cherry-picking starts. I also didn’t know that Plante tried to push around Bobby Orr in Boston, a Bobby Orr who was already on a Hall of Fame career track.

The book, without question, is well-researched, with some opinion thrown in. The author even argues that the 1959-1960 Montreal Canadiens were the best team of all time. In a recent poll on NHL.com, which was conducted when the league celebrated their 100th birthday, that Canadien team didn’t even make the Top 10. (You can read the whole list here: https://www.nhl.com/fans/nhl-centennial/top-10-greatest-nhl-teams)

While I’m not saying Denault isn’t entitled to his own opinion, sometimes he allows his opinions to come off as fact. This didn’t really bother me, because I know about the old Oiler teams, the Dryden Hab teams, the Isle dynasty teams, etc; but if you went into this book blind, you would think the 1959-1960 Canadiens were the greatest team ever.

Like trying to discuss who is the greatest goalie of all time, it’s hard to find a definitive answer when discussing which team was the best of all time. Photo Credit: Montreal Canadiens

When it comes to criticisms of this book, I have three issues. Again, factually, the book is on the money. (There are a few minor errors, but nothing major.) There was a lot of work put into it. However, at times, the book came off like a long Wikipedia article, because of these three glaring issues:

1- The author pretty much glosses over Plante’s personal life. There are no interviews with the family done for this book, at least from what I could tell. Plante had two major events happen in his personal life towards the end of his career. He got divorced and his youngest son committed suicide. What was the cause? What happened? How did Plante react? In this book, Denault just reports that these facts happened in one sentence, and then moves on.

Put it this way – check out the Terry Sawchuk bio written by David Dupuis, or even check out the Bob Probert bio written by Probert, his ghost-writer and his widow. You have family stories and first-hand accounts. You have the family giving the side of the subject of whatever book you’re reading. In this book, there’s none of that.

2- The book, as mentioned, will talk about everything in Plante’s career, but if there wasn’t a newspaper article or something readily available on Google about the subject, the subject only got one sentence. The author brought up the Worsley/Plante feud, but never discussed why the two didn’t get along. The Worsley/Plante feud is something Worsley talks about in detail in his own book. It would’ve been nice to hear Plante’s side when it come to the Gumper.

Repeatedly throughout the book, we are told about Plante’s eccentricities, how he liked to sew and how he was a loner. I already knew that going into this book. I would’ve liked to know more about Jacque’s off-the-ice personality. While the author contends that Plante came from a poor home and how goalies march to the beat of their own drummer, I just felt there could’ve been more there, when it came to Plante’s personality.

3- Obviously, because this book is a passion project and the author is a fan of Plante, there is some “homerisms” in here. This doesn’t hurt the book, but you will see the word “unfortunately” whenever the Canadiens rarely lost a game in Plante’s era. While Plante is one of the best of all time, and I don’t think anyone can argue otherwise without looking foolish, there’s not much criticism about Plante in this book.

For example, can a goalie or any player, be considered the greatest of all time if their own teammates didn’t like him? The author also rewards and commends Plante for sitting out games, as Plante wanted to preserve his numbers and win individual accolades. To me, when you talk about the singular greatest of all time, those athletes want to be on their playing surface, whether it’s Gretzky, Ruth, Jordan or Brady.

In a recent Montreal Canadien fan survey, Hab fans did choose Plante as the greatest Hab goalie of all-time. When you look at the people that were in net for the Canadiens, that’s a hell of an achievement. Photo Credit: NHL

Make no bones about it, this is a great book on Jacques Plante. I did take a lot out of it. I just wanted more. From a career-perspective, this book leaves no stone unturned. EVERYTHING is covered, from Plante’s formative years, his minor league career, his NHL career, his work against the Russians, his WHA career, his coaching career and his goaltending coaching career. In fact, I didn’t know this until I read the book – Plante was the first man to be paid as a goaltending coach, when the Flyers hired him to work with his pupil, in a one Bernie Parent.

For many people, when it comes to Plante, these people know that Plante was the man who introduced the mask to the NHL on November 1st, 1959. While Plante was a strange bird to some, one can not argue with the success Plante had.

In fairness, I will say, for some of the homerism in the book, the author does clearly state that Plante had the good fortune of being with the Habs for so long. However, as the author also points out, Plante, while not winning a Cup after leaving Montreal, would go on to win a Vezina with an expansion team with the St. Louis Blues and would also have his best statistical season (GAA and save percentage wise) at the age of 42 in Toronto. Those latter facts are very impressive to me.

All in all, this book is worth your time & I’m glad a bio of a player of Plante’s stature exists.

You can purchase the book for only $5 over at Amazon.com. For the direct link, click here

Thanks for reading and check out the other blogs posted today!

As always…


Sean McCaffrey


@NYCTHEMIC on the tweeter gimmick

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *