Bernie Parent solves mystery of Leafs mask, 41 years after Rangers captain stole it

Bernie Parent was a goaltender for the Toronto Maple Leafs on April 8, 1971, during a playoff game against the New York Rangers. Late in the game, the teams had a hell of a line brawl: Darryl Sittler and Brad Park left the penalty box to join the fracas, and goalies Parent and Eddie Giacomin got involved as well.

When the punches subsided, Parent collected his gear save for one vital piece:

His mask.

Where was it? In the stands at Madison Square Garden, as Rangers Captain Vic Hadfield hurled it onto the crowd.

Police were unable to locate it. Parent opted not to play the rest of the game without a mask; Leafs goalie Jacques Plante, the first player to ever wear one, came on in relief.

Here's an NHL Network piece on this memorable hockey moment:

Parent never saw his mask again, despite rumors that it had been returned to the Leafs in a shoebox (seriously). Jacques Plante's factory made him a new mask for the following game. But it resurfaced at a 2006 sports memorabilia auction, and then again recently when an anonymous buyer snagged the mask — and decided to reunite Parent with it.

Frank Seravalli of the Philadelphia Daily News reports that the buyer had Parent and his agent authenticate the mask, which the former Philadelphia Flyers goalie did:

Parent, now 67, originally thought he'd have no chance of remembering a 41-year-old former piece of equipment. He switched to a different style with the Flyers. But when he took this mask out of the box, any doubt vanished. He immediately recognized two customs pieces of adhesive padding he inserted himself.

To make sure, Parent put the mask on his face. The custom mold still fit perfectly to his eye sockets.

"The first thing I wanted to do when I saw the mask was to call Hadfield and say, 'Thanks,'" Parent said. "It was a huge pain to get a new mask, it takes 6 to 8 months to get a new one molded and cured. You always wonder what happened to it. Now, after 41 years, it's here. Life is full of surprises."

Parent was simply authenticating the mask, and will give it back to the buyer, who said the mask will be given to the Hockey Hall of Fame posthumously.

Thus closes an odd chapter in NHL goaltending history. Your move, Tanner Glass glove.

s/t Greatest Hockey Legends