Happy 75th Birthday, Chico!
Glenn "Chico" Resch is a lovable and colorful part of New York Islanders and hockey history.
Hall-of-Famer Billy Smith is the first goaltender Islanders fans think about when reminiscing about the team's dynasty years, but as the team was maturing into first a playoff team and then a Stanley Cup contender, it was Resch, not Smith, that was the team's No. 1.
In 1975, Resch played in 12 post-season games during the franchise's first trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs and was between the pipes for the team's first-ever playoff game against the New York Rangers in the preliminary around. After the team advanced on JP Parise's winner 11 seconds into OT, Resch helped the Islanders come back from a 3-0 deficit against Pittsburgh, shutting out the Pens 1-0 in Game 7. The following year, he finished second to Bryan Trottier in the Calder Trophy voting in 1976 and was named an NHL All-Star in 1976 and 1977.
The story behind Glenn "Chico" Resch's NY Islanders mask
As much as fans from a certain generation remember Resch's brilliance in net, those that never saw him play likely know him from pictures of his famed blue and orange mask with an outline of Long Island across the top which wasn't at all common in the 1970s.
It wasn't part of any grand plan. After practice, a dressing room attendant asked Chico if he could take his plain mask home to his art major girlfriend over the weekend and have her paint it. The hand-painted brush-stroked mask was returned on Monday, and the Isles had a game on Tuesday night.
Resch was worried that his teammates and opponents would view it as the young goaltender stepping out to try to get attention for himself, but he quickly realized that the fans loved it, and it would soon give creative license to other goaltenders to follow suit.
"My mask was tied to Long Island. It was tied toward the community and the team, it wasn't an expression of me," added Resch. "The Islanders fans knew that Chico Resch was a die-hard Islander through and through."
Of course, now designing masks are a big part of each goaltender's off-season planning, with a new concept expected for most each season. They are professionally spray painted with all types of designs that take on the personality of the player and serve as homages to their team's history.
For example, Ilya Sorokin's 2021-22 mask had The Fisherman, a lighthouse, a brick wall, and St. Basil’s Cathedral, while his mask last season was an ode to Islanders legends during the team's 50th anniversary season.
"There was a whole generation of goalies that began to see the game in a more colorful way, and from there came colorful pads and blockers, sticks," said Resch in a 2014 interview with MSG Networks. "But I think that [his mask] was the first step of goalies stepping and saying I could be a little different in my look, still play well, not get criticized, and have some fun with it."
Resch wore the mask for the rest of the season, and the NHL requested it from him for the league to display at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. "I thought, I'm probably not going to get there," Resch recalled' "So if my mask could get there, that's good enough for me!"