Played Professional Hockey
Plante officially became a professional hockey player in the early 1950s. Signed by the Montreal Canadiens, he began his career in the minor leagues. He first played for the Buffalo Bisons in the American Hockey League, for part of the 1952-53 and much of the 1953-54 season. Plante had a big break during the 1953 playoffs, when he was called up to the Canadiens.
In the 1953 Stanley Cup semi-finals against the Chicago Blackhawks, the Canadiens were losing the best of seven series three games to two. The Canadiens number one goalie, Gerry McNeill, was playing on a broken ankle, and needed to be replaced in the last two games. Using his unconventional technique, Plante won both games. In the finals against the Boston Bruins, McNeill and Plante split up games. The Canadiens won in five games. Plante was later reprimanded for criticizing McNeill's goaltending, breaking an unwritten rule.
It was during his playoff appearances against Chicago that Plante demonstrated his innovative way of playing the puck, alarming his coach Dick Irvin. Because Plante was an excellent skater, he would roam away from the crease to play the puck to a teammate to start the rush. Though Plante was not the first player to do this (New York Ranger Chuck Rayner did in the 1940s), he was the first to do it on a regular basis on a successful team and it rarely backfired on him. Plante also had another uncommon goalie technique that involved coming out of the net to the top of the crease to cut down on the angle of slapshots. This would mean the puck would come at his chest not at his head.
Plante's success in the playoffs led to his being named the number two goaltender for the Canadiens in the 1953-54 season, backing up McNeill. Plante played in 17 games, but when McNeill lost in the seventh game of the Stanley Cup, he lost his number one job. Plante was the number one goalie in the 1954-55 season, and McNeill basically retired from the game.
Plante remained Montreal's number one goalie for nearly a decade until he was traded. These were some of the best years for Plante and Montreal. He won five straight Vezina Trophies as the league's best goaltender from 1956 to 1960. His goals against was low, but began going up by 1958. These were same years that Montreal won five straight Stanley Cups. While both Plante and the Canadiens were winning, there was tension between Plante and his coach and former teammate Toe Blake, which was heightened by Plante's use of a goalie mask.