Mandatory Visor Debate Rages Again
The decision remains optional, but recent history suggests that the use of visors on hockey helmets should be mandatory.
Simply put, the eyes are the most important part of a hockey player, and they must be protected.
Last night in a game between the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Rangers, a Kimmo Timonen slap shot deflected off of a Flyer stick and straight up into the face of Rangers defenseman Marc Staal. Staal was left in a pool of his own blood on the ice, holding his right eye.
Staal left the game immediately after being hit directly in the eye, and is out indefinitely. According to a tweet by Nick Kypreos, the injury is not believed to be career-threatening.
Over and over again, high sticks and pucks continue to strike hockey players that do not wear visors, putting them out of action for long periods of time—or in some cases, as Flyers fans would know, putting them out of a career.
Promising defenseman Bryan Berard almost lost his career on a follow through slapper by Marian Hossa. He didn't wear a visor.
Ian Laperriere took two pucks to the face during the 2009-2010 season without a visor and his career is over. Chris Pronger took a follow-through from a Mikhail Grabovski stick to the face, likely ending his career in early 2011. No visor.
Braydon Coburn took a Hal Gill slapper right in the face in 2008, receiving 50 stitches to clean it up. He didn't wear a visor then, but he does now.
So many more examples exist.
Politics between the NHL and the NHLPA continue to be the deciding factor as to why the rules won't dictate mandatory visor use. If veteran players came into the league without a visor, and they don't like the vision the visor gives them, why in the world should they wear one? If they believe it will affect their play on the ice, then they do have that right to reject the visor.
The lack of anything shielding the face can be seen as liberating.
Throughout youth hockey and if players take the college route, they must wear full facial cages or plastic shields. In major junior hockey leagues such as the QMJHL, the OHL and the WHL, players are required to wear a visor.
Quoting Rule 9.5 of the CHL Rulebook: "A player not wearing his helmet/visor in a proper manner will be issued one warning during a game. A second warning during that game will result in a misconduct penalty to that player and a fine to the player for improper use (wear) of a helmet/visor."
The CHL's move to strictly enforce visors looks after the health and safety of the young men that play the game. If they do not take precautions to protect their faces, they are disciplined as a result.
This sort of action may seem overboard in a grown men's league, but at the same time, the league wants to protect against head injuries of all kinds. According to Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, the NHL supports a rule for mandatory visors.
One stick or puck to the face without a visor on could be absolutely devastating for a lifetime. Laperriere will live with chronic headaches and light sensitivity due to his decision for the rest of his life. Pronger has very lacking peripheral vision and will live with chronic headaches for the rest of his life.
The effects of Staal's gruesome injury are not yet known quite yet, but history serves to say that it will not be positive for the short term. Staal already has a concussion history. It should not take an injury like this to swing the decision to suddenly wear a visor.
Make visors mandatory and eliminate this "tough guy" culture that remains a stigma over the decision. Visors do not measure a hockey player's strength or guts. Play on the ice tells all. Players should want to lengthen their careers, and in that case, they should wear a visor.