When you hear the term “conversation piece” what thoughts come to mind? Are you picturing a monumental statue in your living room of some obscure historical figure, a rare and restored painting of a prolific artist or perhaps a vintage frame you regret purchasing while vacationing to a country of which you can’t remember the correct pronunciation? Well, when we think conversation piece, we think Doug Favell’s 1970 Philadelphia Flyers first-ever painted goalie mask. There is no truer conversation-starter than this treasure of NHL history. It’s not only the fact that this piece was the trailblazer of painted hockey mask history that makes it a topic of discussion, but also the tumultuous chain of events that make up its incomparable story.
A rather incendiary part of hockey history, this particular mask has been the subject of many a fiery debate—as fiery as the orange paint that first ornated this Ernie Higgins creation on October 31, 1970. We’d venture to guess seeing Favell wearing this pumpkin-colored mask provoked quite a range of reactions on the rink, probably as many as when Jacques Plante first insisted on wearing his to play, in 1959. There is some discrepancy, however, as to the origin of the initial paint choice: some sources say that Favell was pranked on Halloween, while other stories suggest he requested the Philadelphia Flyers trainers to paint it for him. Nevertheless, following the Flyers’ win against the Los Angeles Kings, a long-standing tradition was born. Plante may have paved the way to normalizing mask-wearing during a game, and Boston goalie Gerry Cheevers may have decorated his, however with his painted masks, it was Favell who truly catapulted an entire goalie mask art movement.
Who knows, had the Flyers not won their game that night, perhaps we would have never seen another painted goalie mask in hockey history ever again. Besides its artistic appeal, it’s been said that the goalie mask designs have a distracting, eye-catching effect on the opponents. Indeed, following the appearance of “The Great Pumpkin”, as Favell’s orange mask was affectionately dubbed, both Flyers’ goalies would later paint their fiberglass face-protectors to a striped “sunburst” design with orange and white stripes. Favell’s mask would later be painted a third time in white with a giant Maple Leaf, when he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs for none other than Bernie Parent.
The real controversy ensues when we start to look into what happened to the famous Favell mask during its time at the Hockey Hall of Fame. Now, Favell was no superstar goalie; he would even concur that he had no business in the HHOF, dodging slapshots and flailing about, admitting to becoming a goalie for failure of being able to skate. It wasn’t his talent that got him into the Hall of Fame, but his iconic mask that would be displayed in Toronto’s gallery of hockey legends as of the mid ‘70s. In 2011, however, things took an odd turn. Frank Servello, a game worn hockey equipment dealer, picked up on some inconsistencies in the mask on display and would later inform Doug Favell that this was not the original, but in fact a similarly painted replica. Favell later relayed in an exclusive interview with CityNews that the differences were evident: “You can see it has five holes on the side, the original only has three. The colour is not the same, the stem is wider. Unless you get up close to it, it’s hard to tell. I got up close and once I saw it — it wasn’t even close.” This begets the question: if the mask on display was a replica, what happened to the original initially lent to the HHOF?
What’s even more intriguing, was that Plante and Deluca, of the Vintage Goalie Mask Discussion Page, discovered that the “Clown” mask—with its red shapes on the forehead, nose and under the chin—displayed at the HHOF with a Doug Favell nameplate, was actually Favell’s original mask. Thus, as per this page and other similar forums, putting the pieces of the puzzle together leads us to believe that there was an unknown moment where Favell’s original Leafs mask was stolen from the hall, repainted twice and then anonymously returned to the Hall, looking completely unrecognizable. And no one at the Hall knew.
It was following a meticulous restoration process, that experts were able to peel back the layers of paint and reveal the starburst pattern from 1972-73, proving at last that this was Doug Favell’s Philadelphia Flyers original Higgins goalie mask, the first ever painted goalie mask in NHL history. To this day, it is likely that Favell is still unaware of where his mask disappeared to within those few years. However, we are now fortunate enough to have acquired this piece of history in our hands. All pictures are available here. All authentication, paperwork and additional restoration photos are available upon request.
The Doug Favell 1970 Philadelphia Flyers goalie mask represents an entire art movement. It should come as no surprise that we are irrevocably proud to house this particular piece, our incomparably highest prized mask in inventory. Its unmatched historical prestige coupled with its profound impact on subsequent goalie mask art are what establish its value and make this a highly sought-after article for the seasoned collector. The epitome of intrigue, this gem of hockey history foreshadowed an unprecedented era of mask art, shaping the goalie mystique we’ve come to know and love today.
Contact us today to acquire this historic goalie mask.
Written by: Cara Carosielli
GameUsedMasks.com (March 18, 2013). Doug Favell Game Worn Mask - First Ever Painted Mask in NHL History [article]. Retrieved from http://www.gameusedmasks.com/maskshtml/favell_project.html
Third String Goalie (October 31, 2015). Doug Favell’s Halloween Pumpkin Mask – The First Painted Mask in NHL History [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://thirdstringgoalie.blogspot.com/2015/10/doug-favells-halloween-pumpkin-mask.html
Talbot, M. & Hayes, T. (CityNews) (November 1, 2011). Former Leafs Goalie: HHOF Mask is Replica [article]. Retrieved from https://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/citynews-leafs-favell-mask/
NewStaff (November 2, 2011). Exclusive: Former Leafs Goalie Doug Favell Reunited with Mask [article]. Retrieved from https://toronto.citynews.ca/2011/11/02/exclusive-former-leafs-goalie-doug-favell-reunited-with-mask/
Cameron, D. (April 14, 2020). Behind The Mask: The Oddly Familiar Psychology of Goalies [article]. Retrieved from https://thewalrus.ca/behind-the-mask/