The Visor Debate

Many traditionalists won’t be happy about it, but the visor debate is back in the NHL.  Of course, what’s starting the debate this time Manny Malhotra’s eye injury.  Malhotra underwent a second successful eye procedure today.

When the injury occurred, Canucks general manager Mike Gillis stated that “some players don’t feel they can be as effective with a visor on.  Some of them just don’t like wearing them and right now it’s their choice.  We certainly encourage them to wear them, but that’s all we can do.”

But is it time to do more?  Players in junior leagues are required to wear visors, so stating they would be mandatory for all incoming players wouldn’t effect those who have gotten used to playing without.

Of course, that wouldn’t make Don Cherry happy, but the list of things that upset Cherry is already longer than any of us can count.

Looking at the top 20 point scorers in the NHL, you’ll find that 18 of them wear visors.  Only Martin St. Louis and Eric Staal play without eye protection.  Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Steven Stamkos, Corey Perry, Alex Ovechkin, Henrik Zetterberg, Jarome Iginla, Jonathan Toews, Teemu Selanne, Anze Kopitar, Claude Giroux, Brad Richards, Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane, Rick Nash and Sidney Crosby all wear visors.

Tim Brent of the Toronto Maple Leafs recently started wearing a visor after he was hit in the eye with a stick.  Brent said that “it hasn’t been that big of an issue as far as adjusting” and that “they make them so optically perfect now that even from my junior days the visors have come along so far they’re really great to look through.”

Of course, the “fighting with a visor” debate comes up here as well.  Sure, you can score goals when you’re wearing a visor, but they really seem to get in the way when you’re trying to bash someone’s face in.  The NHL even penalizes players for starting a fight with a visor on, which actively discourages players from protecting their eyes if there’s a chance they may fight.

Yes, you can cut your hand punching someone with a visor and removing your helmet entirely is dangerous, but it’s always seemed weird that the NHL would punish someone for wearing a visor.  The rule almost forces agitators and goons to play without visors.  Do the Canucks and other teams encourage all of their players to wear visors, or just those who won’t be starting fights?  Do team discourage some players from wearing them for fear of ending up shorthanded after a fight?

If you look at the fighting leaders, there aren’t many visors in sight.  Is the the choice of the players, due to pressure from the team or is it “the code” striking yet again?

Are detachable or “clip-on” visors the answer?  Would they actually work?  And, if not, is the NHL content with having half the league protect their eyes while the other half risks being penalized for doing so?