Andy Brown was a minor league goaltender who played only a handful of NHL games. But he is the answer to a most interesting trivia question - he was the last goaltender in the history of the NHL to play without a protective mask.
Brown played his last NHL game on April 7, 1974, and by doing so became the last goalie to play without a mask. Playing with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Brown lost 6-3 to the Atlanta Flames. It was his last NHL game as in the off-season he would sign with the WHA's Indianapolis Racers.
Brown often wore a mask in practice, but claimed his visibility was hindered by the mask in game situations.
He also had another reason for not wearing a mask. Or at least this is what he told one reporter:
"When those TV cameras zoom in on the guys with the masks, they look like monsters. When they zoom in on me - they see an untouched marvel!"
Brown became a little more self deprecating as he continued. But he was also quite insightful.
"I was never any Clark Gable," he said with a laugh. "If I said I didn't have any fear I'd be lying. These days everyone can shoot and everyone can kill you with a shot. But the thing that especially bothers me is that the puck can do so many different things. It can drop, rise, dip and doodle. It does things like a knuckleball and everyone knows a batter gets by that kind of pitch every now and then."
"Screen shots and deflections are also tough to line up and I'll get hit by those. So why don't I wear a mask? Well, I think it's mind over matter. I've never worn one and I can't say I'm horrified at the thought of what might happen without one. I'm myself and I say different strokes for different folks."
Born in Hamilton, Ontario, Brown struggled with various serious injuries during his junior career. Never shown any interest by the NHL, Brown refused to give up on his dream to be a big league goalie. Brown signed on with the AHL's Baltimore Clippers but spent his first three seasons with the Clippers affiliate teams in the EHL. Brown proved himself in the EHL and in 1968 he moved up to play with in the AHL. He played three solid seasons and by 1971 he was considered to be the best goalie in the AHL, winning First All Star team status.
The Detroit Red Wings picked up Brown in the summer of 1971 in an Inter-League draft. Brown would spend most of the 1971-72 season in the AHL but did get a 10 game taste with the Red Wings. He sported a record of 4-5-1 with a 3.96 GAA.
Brown appeared in 7 games with the Wings the following season but spent most his time in the minors again, this time in the CHL. In February of 1972 he was dealt to the struggling Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for a draft pick and some cash. Brown's only full season in the NHL came in 1973-73 when he had a respectable 13-16-4 record and picked up his only NHL shutout.
With the Penguins intending on using Dennis Heron and Jim Rutherford in the future, Brown signed on with the WHA where he played three more seasons with Indianapolis.
In total, Andy Brown played in 62 NHL games with a 22-26-9 record. He once held the NHL record for penalty minutes in a season by a goaltender with 60. In 1974-75 he set the WHA record with 75 penalty minutes, including allegedly throwing the puck and bloodying Frank Mahovlich's head. But he will always be remembered as the last goalie in the NHL to have played in between the pipes without a goalie mask.
An avid race car enthusiast, Brown was a second generation NHLer. His father Adam played parts of 10 years in the NHL with Detroit, Chicago and Boston back in the 1940s and 1950s. Adam Brown assisted on Gordie Howe's first NHL goal.