Once upon a time, NHL goalies played without masks. Unsurprisingly, their faces frequently took beatings. In 1966, LIFE magazine published an article, “The Goalie Is the Goat,” that not only tried to put a human countenance on “hockey’s reviled and bludgeoned fall-guys,” but led off with the striking photo above: Hall of Famer Terry Sawchuk, looking for all the world like a modern Frankenstein’s monster.
“How would you like it,” LIFE quoted another Hall of Fame goalie, Jacques Plante, the first in the NHL to regularly wear a mask, “if you were out on your job or in your office and you made a little mistake. And suddenly a bright red light flashed on behind you and then 18,000 people started screaming, ‘Pig!Stupid! You couldn’t even stop a basketball! Get the bum out of there!'”
Sawchuk, meanwhile, had one of the strangest careers of any great NHL player. He was a four-time Stanley Cup winner, an 11-time All Star, won four Vezina trophies and a boatload of other laurels. He also bounced around from team to team — he played for five between 1949 and 1970 — and was depressive, alcoholic and reportedly abusive toward his wife (who eventually divorced him) and kids for years. In 1970, he was badly injured during a fight with his Rangers teammate Ron Stewart, and eventually died of internal injuries, including a bleeding liver. Sawchuk never blamed Stewart for the fight, and repeatedly said the whole thing was a stupid accident. He was 40 years old.
He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1971. Below is a photo of him at 22 years old, when he was, according to LIFE, “the greatest hockey goalie ever.”