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NHLPA ready to discuss mandatory visors; players not in favor of hybrid icing

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TORONTO – Is the NHL Players’ Association ready to support a grandfathered visor rule?

The union at least will ask its members what they think. If they are in favor, the rule likely would go from the competition committee, to the NHL Board of Governors and into the book.

But we’ll see.

“We’re definitely going to look at talking to the guys about grandfathering them in,” said Mathieu Schneider, the special assistant to NHLPA executive director Don Fehr, at the NHL general managers’ meeting. “We’d probably do some type of poll.”

The NHL has been in favor of mandatory visors or at least a grandfathered rule, and the NHLPA has encouraged its members to wear visors. But the league cannot force the players to wear visors without their consent, and the last time the NHLPA polled its members, they were heavily in favor of personal choice over a grandfathered rule.

If a grandfathered rule is introduced, players entering the NHL would be required to wear a visor the same way they were a lower levels. Those already in the league would keep personal choice.

That poll was in 2009, though. Since then, the speed of the game has only increased. More players are choosing to wear visors – around 73 percent. And players who have chosen not to wear visors have suffered serious injuries after taking sticks and pucks in the eyes or face.

The Philadelphia Flyers’ Chris Pronger and the Vancouver Canucks’ Manny Malhotra might not play again. The New York Rangers’ Marc Staal is expected to make a full recovery but is currently out of the lineup.

“I’m certainly an advocate – and a bit of a hypocrite myself, because I played my entire career without one,” said Schneider, a former NHL defenseman. “But the game’s extremely fast. Guys come into the league now having had to wear a visor before.”

Schneider’s take on other topics at the GM meeting:

Reducing the size of goalie equipment: “There’s going to be a lot more debate before anything is done. I think the first thing is, you want to make sure that the goalies are safe. The second thing is, how does the goalie size change the way the game is played? I think we had a lot of good debate on that. …

“Something that we’ve talked about in the past is, the equipment makes the player better. I think players should have to rely on their own athletic ability. If the equipment is there that makes them a better player, gives them an advantage, cheating in a sense, then that’s what we want to get rid of.

“I think the other concern is that you see a lot of pucks going high now. Defensemen especially shoot high from the point. That creates another danger. That’s something we saw with the Staal injury. An awful lot of pucks are going high because you just can’t score on the ice anymore.”

Hybrid icing, in which the play is blown dead unless the offensive player is winning the race at the faceoff dot: “It’s something that the players haven’t had an appetite for the last couple years. The GMs, I think there’s more in favor of going to the hybrid, but there’s still a split. It’s something that will continue to be debated.

“I think there’s pros and cons. There’s a little bit more subjectivity to the hybrid icing. These are very difficult things when you’re trying to change. You want to avoid the unintended consequences of what may happen when you change a rule like that.”

Embellishment: “It’s come up in previous meetings the last couple of years, and I’m sure that’s going to be a topic discussed in the future. But it was very brief today.

“I know in the summit that we had here during the lockout, there were a number of players in favor of putting the [divers] list back up in the dressing room. There’s complicated issues on both sides there. I know [NHL executive Colin Campbell] talked about how GMs and coaches complain an awful lot about those lists and the fines. So it’s a difficult issues, but I think it’s certainly something that’s going to keep resurfacing.”

Coach’s challenge: “They discussed it for a period of time. There wasn’t a ton of traction.”

Schneider said there was more discussion about expanding what the hockey operations staff can review in Toronto.

• The GMs also talked about cheating on faceoffs and using them as a delay tactic.

• The GMs did not discuss fighting or staged fighting.

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