The hockey world mourns the loss of former NHL and WHA goaltender Dave Dryden, who died Oct. 4 at the age of 81.
He was an excellent goalkeeper, but people may not know that Dryden was a true innovator. He pioneered the first cage combination goalie mask and was instrumental in the design of equipment.
Legendary mask maker Greg Harrison had a lot to share about Dryden’s contribution to the job.
“Dryden was showing up at Cooper (the hockey company now known as Bauer) when I was working there,” Harrison said. “He would come into the design department and say, ‘Why do we need all this leather on the glove and the blocker? We can use nylon and make it lighter. ”
It was trial and error at the time. The nylon worked well in areas of the gear that didn’t come into contact with the ice very often. So Dryden, along with the gear designers at Cooper, tinkered around until they found the magic combination of weight and durability.
According to Harrison, many of Dryden’s ideas would find their way into Cooper’s product line next year. Retail buyers have directly benefited from Dryden’s curiosity.
“He was such a humble man,” Harrison said of his friend. “He never got credit. Not that I think he wanted it anyway.
Dryden, who retired after the 1979-80 season with the Edmonton Oilers, was the first to wear a padded practice jersey he sewed himself. More than a decade passed before the first padded training shirts were available in stores.
Although it’s impossible to verify, Harrison believes Dryden was the first to attach arm guards to his chest protector. Goalies had always worn them separately before Dryden decided to pull out the needle and get creative.
I started playing goalie in the late 1980s with a two piece upper body kit. Yet Dryden had already laid the foundation for today’s chest and arm protectors years before. By the early 1990s, two-part protection was no longer available.
Dryden also left his mark on the design of the leggings.
“We made him a pair of pads and around the inside edges we put about a ⅝ inch piece of wood,” Harrison recalled of his time working at Cooper. “But we found it broken. So we used a rounded PVC plastic extrusion instead. You can see it when he played with Edmonton. The pads had a sharp edge inside. This stopped the puck from slipping through.
Most of Dryden’s innovations were not so visible, but it was impossible not to notice when, in 1979, as a member of the Edmonton Oilers, he took to the ice wearing a never-before-seen mask design.