October 25, 2011
By his own admission, Ian Laperriere(notes) was too macho to wear a visor. Then he took a Paul Martin(notes) slap shot to the face during the 2010 playoffs and suffered a brain contusion and concussion. He valiantly returned to the Philadelphia Flyers in the Stanley Cup Final, wearing a visor and vowing he'd wear one for the rest of his career.
That Ian Laperriere hasn't played another game since June 9, 2010, should have been all the convincing necessary in the Flyers' room about the necessity of wearing a visor in the NHL. If not, then seeing star defenseman Chris Pronger(notes) go down on Monday night after a stick to the eye should have done the same.
Yet there are still players in the Flyers' room, and in every NHL dressing room, who choose not to wear them, and see them as a matter of personal preference rather than mandatory safety.
Where do you fall on the visor issue?
"I'm not comfortable with it," said Walker. "I've never been a fan of it. It's a personal choice; some guys have obviously worn them their whole life and are fine with them."
He too wore the visor when injured, although he also had to wear it in juniors as all players do. "I think it should be up to the player," said Walker. "It's a personal thing. It's a safety thing, but I think it's got to be our choice. I don't think it's something that should be mandatory."
For other guys, it's a matter of the vision. Lilja for example has trouble with the bottom edge of the visor. It affects his sightlines and where he sees the puck. "I tried a bunch of times. I want to wear a visor but I can't. I can't see in it," said Lilja.
Ultimately, this is why we don't have mandatory visors: Because there are enough players in the NHLPA, and players of influence in the NHLPA, who aren't going to allow the union to work with the NHL in making them mandatory, because they see it as a matter of personal choice and convenience.
Here's something from the New York Times on visors … from 2006:
The American Hockey League, however, had seen enough catastrophic eye injuries. This year the A.H.L. mandated visors for all players, leaving the National Hockey League as the only major professional or junior league in North America that does not require them. The N.H.L. Players' Association has resisted a visor rule because of concerns about freedom of choice and decreased on-ice vision. And there are the longstanding stereotypes about toughness that consider visors an effete accessory.
The deputy commissioner Bill Daly said that the N.H.L. favored requiring visors. "We intend to monitor closely the experience with the A.H.L.'s mandatory policy this year," he said in an e-mail message, "and we remain hopeful that we will have our own mandatory visor rule in the not-too-distant future."
Any change would first require consent from the union to amend the N.H.L.'s collective bargaining agreement. The union raised the issue with members over the summer, and chose to keep visors optional for now.
"For now" became "for the next five years."
Should visors be grandfathered in like helmets? Would that help? Does the NHL need to make spiffy videos with Brendan Shanahan(notes) explaining catastrophic eye injuries to help with the education process?
(Of course, he didn't wear one for the majority of his career, either. As a 40-year-old, Shanahan said: "The union's position is it's a choice of all of the players, but I'd like to see it where young players coming out of junior keep it on. It's probably a little bit of a macho thing for a kid who's never not worn something over his face to take it off. Here's probably a lot of external pressure from peers, especially if you play with a physical element.")
It's an issue of player safety. Not one like no-touch icing, for which there can be a legitimate counterclaim that touch icing's removal can affect the competiveness or entertainment value of the game. Players with visors still play hard, still block shots. Even if it's a case in which a player that fights doesn't want to wear one — Laperriere and Shelley are prime examples of this — they can just flip their lid before a brawl.
(We'll leave the quasi-legal fighting/players safety conundrum for another day.)
Pronger will be back, and GM Paul Holmgren predicted he'll back wearing a visor. For how long? Who knows? It's a matter of player preference, you see. And that's the problem.