On Tuesday, Vancouver d-man Kevin Bieksa returned from an eye injury — suffered two nights earlier after he was struck by a puck — and did so without wearing a protective visor.
When pressed, Bieksa wouldn’t expand on the reasons why.
“Whether I wear a visor or not is a personal and a family decision, so it’s not something I’m going to debate publicly,” he said, per The Province. “I’m not going to be the guy debating both sides of it, and I like to keep it to myself.”
Now, it’s Chicago’s Niklas Hjalmarsson dancing around the visor debate.
Hjalmarsson, who’s donned a visor in the past but primarily plays without, suffered a nasty cut under his left eye Saturday in Toronto (like Bieksa, he was caught in the face with the puck). Hjalmarsson returned to the game with stitches — and a protective shield — but was non-committal about wearing one moving forward.
“I’ve tried a couple of times before, guess we’ll see how it goes,” Hjalmarsson explained, per the Chicago Tribune. “I’ve made the mistake of taking it off right away when I could, and once you take it off it’s really tough to go back to [wearing a] visor.”
Hjalmarsson stuck with the visor in the wake of the Toronto incident, and wore one during Tuesday’s 5-0 win over the Habs in Montreal. But again, he wouldn’t commit to full-time use.
“It feels like you’re in a cage a little bit, even though you can see pretty well through it,” he explained. “It’s a different feeling to get used to for sure.”
The NHL implemented a mandatory visor rule for incoming players last season, but veterans like Bieksa and Hjalmarsson were grandfathered in — meaning they were allowed to decide for themselves. It’s made for an interesting dynamic; rather than speak out in favor of going shield-less, the players have both seemed to downplay the “will you or won’t you?” angle, while pushing the “if I do, I do…if I don’t, I don’t” position.
The guys responsible for employing said players, though, have a decidedly different take on the matter.
Like Canucks GM Jim Benning, for example — he didn’t wear a visor during his playing career, but thinks they’re vitally important now.
“The game has changed,” Benning said. “Pucks fly off sticks a lot harder than in the ’80s, and now the visor issue is a personal preference.
“I would like to see all our guys wear visors, but at the end of the day it’s up to them.”