Everytime I see a player take a puck to the face or a stick to the
eye, just inches from a brutal and career-ending injury, I wonder
exactly why these players aren’t wearing a visor. I understand that
hockey is supposed to be a “man’s game” and that everytime we attempt to
add to the safety of the game there are some who are concerned that we
are taking away the toughness of the sport.
Not so. This is about protecting a player’s well being after
he is done playing hockey. Ian Laperriere, dropping down to block a shot
and getting hit in the face with a puck, could have easily lost an eye.
We want better head-shot rules to protect players now so they have a
decent life after they are finished with the NHL, as head injuries can
take years to really affect a person’s health.
After seeing Laperriere bleeding profusely on the ice, asking
trainers if he still had his eye, I immediately asked myself “should the
NHL make wearing visors mandatory?”. If the NHL is truly concerned
about player’s safety, although they’ve yet to really act on changing
the game to match their public concern, then perhaps requiring all
players to wear visors would be a logical next step.
Laperriere says that this was a tough lesson to learn, and that he
was “stupid” for not wearing one before. If you want to see the
aftermath of the injury, and to hear what Laperriere had to say after
the game, here’s the first part of his post-game interview:
After the jump, we look at whether mandatory visors is a good idea or
The issue with making visors mandatory is the backlash coming from
the established players in the NHL. For those that choose not to wear
them there are various reasons they have for forgoing the safety of the
visor: comfort, visibility, etc. Some are just so used to not wearing
them after so many years, they’re worried they won’t be the same if they
suddenly attach a visor to their helmet.
What is interesting is how after facial injuries, players that are
forced to wear cages and/or visors while healing immediately go back to
wearing none as soon as cleared to do so. So obviously, their concern
about their own safety is trumped by a desire for comfort.
So how should the NHL handle this?
After conducting an informal poll on Twitter, I tend to agree with
the suggestions: make mandatory visors a part of the next CBA, and
grandfather current players into the rule. Eventually, in ten years or
so, all players in the NHL will be wearing visors and it will be just as
normal as when the NHL switched to mandatory helmets three decades ago.
There are plenty of other safety issues that need to be addressed as
well, the least of which is no-touch icing. I understand that the NHL is
worried about keeping it’s own brand of hockey separate from the way
it’s played around the world, but the thought that international hockey
rules keeps the game from being physical was downplayed by the
incredible hockey we witnessed in the playoffs this year.
The IIHF has some great, subtle rules that definitively makes hockey a
safer game. Mandatory visors. No-touch icing. No head shots. No
freaking trapezoid. The NHL will be wise to take notes.