When he does practice, Hall wears a mask somewhat like that worn by Jacques Plante of the Montreal Canadiens. But he does not wear it in a game. "There's no use getting hurt in practice," he says. "If you're getting paid to take risks, that's a different matter."
The risks that Hall takes are somewhat mitigated by his approach to the game—an approach that is as cerebral as it is reflexive. He is a shrewd analyst of his opponents' styles. " Camille Henry of the Rangers," he says, "will give you the greatest shuffle I've ever seen; you don't know where the puck is. Jean Beliveau gets out there in front of the nets to set up the screen for somebody else. And, if that somebody misses, boom! he's in on the puck and shooting! Before he quit, Montreal's Rocket Richard had an outstanding backhand shot. He was a left-hander playing right wing, which was how he developed it. Andy Bathgate will come in on you, take a look and, if he hasn't got you beat, pass off to another man."
Hall's own style is as individualistic as an infant's ear. The majority of goalies use a semisplit in which one leg is locked vertically into place as a pivot while the other one is swung out wide to the left in a lopsided V. Hall meets the shot with his feet wide but his knees close together to form an inverted Y. Instead of throwing his whole body to the ice in crises, he'll go down momentarily to his knees, then bounce back to his feet, able to go in any direction. "In this way I'm always in position and ready for the next shot," he says.
On the ice Hall follows the puck with the concentration of a gem cutter. (He has 20/15 vision, which means that he can see at 20 feet what the normal eye can see at 15 feet.) "Sometimes I have to talk to myself to sell me on concentrating a little more," he says.
Ping-pong and pills
To keep his eyes sharp during the offseason Hall plays ping-pong—as many as 20 games in a row. "I don't really play too well," he says. "I play up close to the table where I'm going to need the same characteristics I need for goalkeeping—reflexes and coordination." When he drives he wears sunglasses, even on cloudy days. And at night he keeps well to the right on toll roads and superhighways. "Keeps the bright lights of the oncoming cars out of my eyes when I'm going to the game," he says.
For years he's experimented with stomach-settling preparations—"but they only come up with everything else." Today, as one of the two best goalies in hockey ( Jacques Plante is the other), he accepts nausea without complaint as the burden of trying to straddle two worlds with a single nervous system. "I guess," he once said of goalkeepers, "we're all a little bit sick."