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Attention to Detail
MONTREAL | February 1st, 2010
Attention to Detail
On any hockey team, goalies are the ones most often typified as being paranoid, sweating the slightest quirks that could influence the outcome of a game and mark the difference between winning and losing.

Such was the case with even the legendary Jacques Plante over his 11 brilliant seasons in the Habs’ crease. When the Canadiens’ famous No. 1 was between the pipes, it could be said that not much crept by him – pucks or otherwise. Superstitious and eccentric, he often went as far as changing hotels on the road based on the quality of the air in his room.

The manner in which Plante placed himself inside goal creases was also carefully calculated. Knowing every inch of the NHL’s arenas, he split hairs over such variables as rink board characteristics and the impact they had on rebounds, as well as the wandering space available to him behind his net. When it came to attention to detail, absolutely nothing got by Plante.

One day, prior to a morning practice at Chicago Stadium, Plante complained to anyone who would listen about something he’d discovered, leaving many teammates, including Jean Beliveau, scratching their heads.

"We were at practice and Jacques says to everyone's surprise that the crossbar in Chicago was lower than the rest of the NHL,” recalled Beliveau. “He was talking about a difference of an 1/8th to 1/4 of an inch.”

The strange thing was, Plante had yet to even set foot on the ice that morning. As one can imagine, the netminder earned some suspicious looks from teammates wondering how he had come up with such a notion.

"We asked Jacques how he could tell the crossbar was lower", recalled the longtime Habs captain. “That’s when he just said: ‘When I lean back into my net, it’s always the same.’"

Not wanting to cast doubt upon the goalie's claims, Beliveau and his teammates went about their business at practice. No one dared mention the crossbar. Once the on-ice session was over, however, the players wasted no time checking out the stopper's insistent assertion.

"I have to admit, we were quite skeptical,” admitted Beliveau. “His reasoning didn't seem plausible to us, so we got out a measuring tape, measured it, and guess what? He was absolutely right!"

While the tale fails to recall whether Plante won the game that night, a particular lesson remains: never doubt a goalie’s instincts.

See also
Welcome to the Rock
Hull's not-so secret admirer
The Man With One Red Shoe
Is there a doctor in the house?
A White Welcome
Boss' Orders
Birds of a Feather
Howe could you?