|Les Binkley - 30
|Clevland Barons, Pittsburgh Penguins -
1967 to 1976
|Born - October 5th, 1947
|Les Binkley was an original member of Pittsburgh Penguins’ first team in 1967. Les started his career in Pittsburgh without a goalie mask. Hank Bassen, his partner in 1967, wore a
Lefty Wilson mask. Les, however, had his face molded in 1960-1961 by a dentist he knew. He started wearing the homemade plastic-style mask in practices only with the
Cleveland Barons (AHL) Like a lot of other goalies, he felt like he couldn't see, but said he had to learn how to stare to see out of the mask. He felt it was always hard to find the
puck around his skates. He continued to wear this mask during practices until 1970 with Pittsburgh.
He went without a mask in Pittsburgh his first two seasons. Then, in 1970-1971, Les eventually gave in like a lot of other goalies and had Penguins trainer Kenny Carson mold his
face and then the plaster mold was sent to the Fibrosport company in Magog, Quebec. Marc-Andre Beaudin would have been the builder of the custom-molded masks for
Fibrosport and others. He also made the so called Britt mask. The mask Les Binkley wore.
Binkley's mask was a bit larger than a lot of the other goalies who wore that version. He also took black hockey tape one day and placed it under his eyes (just like baseball and
football players do when they wear eye black to cut down glare). The glare at the old Civic Arena was pretty bad; maybe it was because of the way the Civic Arena’s famous
domed roof and lights were set up, or maybe it was Les adjusting to his mask in games, he said. He eventually got used to the mask and then he removed the tape.
Les wasn’t 100 percent sure of the time, but he thinks in 1971-72 on a trip to Boston he had a chat with Ernie Higgins at the Boston Garden. Ernie was there to see Bruins goalie
Eddie Johnston. From that conservation, Ernie asked Les to give his masks a try. Ernie took a mold of Binkley's face. He liked Eddie Johnston’s mask, so that’s what Ernie made
him. The first Higgins mask, according to Les, felt way too tight and the eye-holes were too small – he wore it in a couple of practices, but never in a game. When he reported back
to Ernie about the problems, Ernie made him a second mask with larger eye-holes.
After Les got the new second mask, Les recalls trying it in practice and Bryan Hextall hitting him in the face under the eye with a shot – leaving a nasty cut under his eye and a
bloody nose. That was the end of the Higgin's masks for Les.
Sadly, Les does not know what happened to his two Higgin's masks. We have however, with Les's help, created an extremely close replica of Les Binkley's Higgins practise mask.
We might not have the original masks, but we now have a great, well-documented story right from the man himself: Les Binkley. Pittsburgh Penguins #30 (1967-1972)
Head Equipment Manager