Published April 3, 2009 – Canadian Business Online

The goalie mask is as Canadian an idea as they come. Indeed, 71% of Canadians know that a fellow Canuck invented the face-saving device, according to a recent survey of 1,508 people by Leger Marketing.

Most hockey fans are aware that it was Jacques Plante, then tending goal for the Montreal Canadiens, who first used a practical mask in 1959 after being struck in the face by a shot by the New York Rangers’ Andy Bathgate. Bill Burchmore, a 35-year-old sales-promotions manager at Fiberglass Canada Ltd, designed the mask, which eventually evolved into the product that all goalies were using by the early 1970s.

Fewer people know that Clint Benedict briefly wore a leather-and-wire mask in 1929, and even fewer realize Elizabeth Graham was the first to wear a mask in a game, way back in 1927 while playing for Queen’s University. Good on ya, Liz.

CB Online article thumbnailBut before we get too excited about how much we know about this country’s innovative history, it turns out that both the electric oven and lightbulb were invented in Canada, but only 8% and 20%, respectively, of those surveyed know that.

And while Leger’s survey, done on behalf of innovation consulting firm Nytric Ltd., reports that 76% of respondents believe Canadians are an innovative bunch and that nearly 60% have had product ideas of their own, only one in seven have ever considered marketing them.

Why bring this up? Because Canadian Business and Nytric have kicked off the third annual Great Canadian Innovation Competition – giving one lucky inventor the opportunity to receive up to $90,000 in engineering and business services to bring the winning concept to life, plus a profile-boosting feature in an upcoming issue of the magazine. The deadline for entries is midnight, May 1.

So if you believe you might just have invented the next lightbulb or goalie mask, go to

By Andy Holloway

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April 3, 2009