One of the lingering controversies born out of these Stanley Cup Playoffs is about making visors mandatory in the NHL. When Braydon Coburn of the Philadelphia Flyers took a puck to the face, a team already shorthanded on defense lost the services of one its steadiest players. That's the tactical assessment of his injury; from a more human perspective, Coburn took 40 stitches near his eye on a play that could have been prevented with a face shield.
On his blog for The Hockey News, Adam Proteau relays details of a debate between Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli and American Hockey League President Dave Andrews on TSN about the issue. He felt Andrews scored some interesting points:
"I don't think there's any reason for a player to take (a visor) off," said Andrews, whose league made visors mandatory for its players at the start of the 2006-07 season. "Every player now turning professional...whether they come from Europe, NCAA or major junior, has been wearing a visor, and to play without one is to consciously take it off."
I quite liked the way Andrews framed that. It isn't about players putting on visors anymore, it's about the guys taking off a piece of equipment they've played with throughout their formative years.
Andrews also shot down the typical anti-visor propaganda regarding the supposed rise in stick work that would follow the mandating of shields. "Sticks are down in our league," Andrews said. "Sticking majors are down by 35 percent. We haven't seen any negative results."
But the question the NHL can't quite seem to answer is whether players have the right to "take off a piece of equipment they've played with throughout their formative years." There's a libertarian side to this debate that says players should have a right to personal responsibility: If they feel their play would improve without a visor, and the risk is minimal, why not allow them the option to play without one? It's the same view that can be applied to neck guards in the wake of the ghastly Richard Zednik injury.
It all comes down to who knows best: Those running the leagues, or those playing in them?