Dallas Stars v Vancouver Canucks

I’ve been railing for visors to be made mandatory for awhile now - this post originally ran in The Hockey News March 29th, 2010 (re-purposed with permission). I made some tweaks to it to keep it current, but almost three years later, the message remains the same.

***

It is inevitable that the NHL will eventually implement a mandatory visor policy. So what’re we waiting for?

Today we found out that Manny Malhotra is being placed back on IR; his vision is still not back to normal after getting a puck in the eye last season, and it will keep him it out for at least the remainder of this season, if it doesn’t end his career. He wasn’t wearing a visor at the time of the freak accident. Neither was Chris Pronger, when he took a stick to the eye and had his NHL career shortened.

Facial lacerations, scars and bruises are practically the calling card of NHL veterans. So much so that when some people meet a normal-looking hockey player post-career, they’ll comment on it. You played hockey? I never would’ve guessed, you look fine!

There is, miraculously, a product that can eliminate half of these injuries, by covering half the face. Relative unknowns in the league have tried it with moderate success: Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Pavel Datsyuk and Evgeni Malkin are among the few players in the test group, last I checked. I guess we’ll have to wait until after their careers to find out if the visor is possible to adjust to.

I myself was once a be-shielded hockey player and my repeatedly broken nose is evidence that a visor does not guarantee safety. But the other half of the story is told in those shields I’ve had to throw into the trash due to puck marks and scratches that would’ve otherwise been shredding my all-too-pretty face.

St. Louis Blues v Philadelphia FlyersI understand this wearing of the shield thing is not ideal – sometimes it fogs up, or gets scratched in just the wrong spot. And I can relate – I love the freedom I feel when I play pond hockey, because I’m not wearing hockey pants. But at what point does preference take a back seat to common sense? My preference is not to wear those irritating seatbelts, but I’d also prefer to not fly through a glass windshield if I get in a car accident.

I’m all for letting people make their own decisions, but I haven’t heard of a single person protected by a state helmet law that was still bummed to be wearing one after an accident – and they didn’t have the choice to wear one or not. It’s just amazing we even have to make it a rule. Like Jerry Seinfeld said: “The idea behind the helmet law is to preserve a brain, whose judgment is so poor, that it doesn’t even try to prevent the cracking of the head it’s in.” I can’t believe we have to protect these guys from themselves.

If you’re the owner of a team paying a million dollars for the services of a hockey player (like Malhotra), aren’t you upset the guy is on the sidelines because he didn’t take necessary precautions?  As their boss, wouldn’t you feel the need to mandate your employees wear safety goggles around dangerous, flying objects?

This is one of those things that’s going to happen, because it can add safety to the game without taking anything from it. It’s not a question of free will – these guys work for the NHL, so the league can make them do/wear whatever they want them to.

Some players even think the shields are an advantage because it’s harder for defensemen and goalies to see your eyes and eyes matter, just ask anyone on the defensive side of the puck.

So why wait? NHL rulings on topics like this one don’t need to run through a slogging bureaucracy of red tape and signatures. Smart minds work there. Have a conversation and do the obvious – let the guys who currently choose to go no-visor stay as idiots. But don’t let one rookie do it ever again. It’s already mandatory in the American League and below, so make the move. I’m not even close to the first to suggest this.

Not only is it a step in the right direction, but once 95 percent of the league has visors on, I have to believe the stubborn mules would start to think twice about putting their faces out there while pucks hum by their chin on a nightly basis.

I had to wear a cage in college and learned the human brain is an amazing thing – it completely blocks the bars out. After five or six practices, I never thought about it again. When I got to make the switch to a visor in pro, the same thing happened and I’m by no means an anomaly. It will happen for everyone.

There’s no need to play with fire on this one, our vision is just too important. A simple change needs to be made, NHL. Can’t you see that clearly?

Comments (29)

  1. I agree completely! When I was growing up playing hockey, I never noticed my full cage. Not once.

  2. Completely agree, but we need to appreciate that this is unfortunately the same league that needed someone to die on the ice before instituting a helmet policy in the first place.

    Safety-related change in the NHL moves at a snail’s pace, which makes the NHL and NHLPA’s reluctance to advance mandatory visors that much more damning.

    The only case I’ve ever heard against visors is that it makes it harder to have a clean fight, which is frankly the most absurd defence of unsafe conditions possible.

    • The last NHL on ice death was 1968. That is 11 years before the NHL made helmets mandatory.

      There was one in 1972 in the Centenial Cup final game. Still not really close enough time frame for your claim to be true.

  3. Not only should they be mandatory, but they should be required to be work properly. What’s the point of wearing them up high like Kronwall and Leo Komarov do? It’d also be great if players actually worse their chin straps appropriately too (looking at your Bertuzzi).

    • I’m an rec-league official and agree with Colin – visors worn that basically dont cover shit are not worth the plastic they are made out of.

      Last year our Referee in Cheif sent out a safety emphasis (i think based on one issued by the IIHF) on visors/helmets.

      He said no player will be allowed to play if their visor is above the point of the note, or if thier chinstrap is more than 1 finger width from the bottom of the chin. Two weeks of grumbling from players, now 95% complaiance.

    • To be fair, Bertuzzi has gone on record as saying that while he will never wear one as his career is nearing its end, he does believe that they should make it mandatory to wear a visor and grandfather it like they did with helmets.

  4. Saying this for years too. Frankly I think they should wear “glass” cages like the youngins’ do too.

    • I’m not sure you’d get much support for a bunch of grown men skating around with fish bowls on their heads.

  5. Great article, I couldn’t agree more. Even if it wasn’t the entire NHL, it would be nice to see some teams adopt the policy themselves, to protect their investments. I always wear a full cage in the Rec league I play in. Yeah, I get chirped… but it’s not the NHL, it’s a goddamn Rec league I play in for fun! I’ve seen too many pucks in the face, and I don’t feel like being the guy walking around the office with missing teeth or a busted up face.

    Like you said, all the guys coming out of junior are already used to them. And even guys like Getzlaf, Staal etc had to wear them at the 2010 Olympics. After 16 NHL seasons, Nick Lidstrom decided to wear one after his eye scare in 2008. Based on his production in his final 4 seasons, it doesn’t look like it affected him at all.

    The NHL’s “Department of Player Safety” is a joke. It’s time they actually started doing some “proactive” work, instead of “reactionary” responses like suspensions and fines. Or at least change their name to “The NHL Supplemental Discipline Department”, because that’s all they actually do.

  6. I’ve never worn a visor, I wore a cage for two practices and couldn’t stand it. The scary thing is I’m esentially blind in my right eye due to a birth defect with my optical nerve. I should probably stop being frugal and pay the £80 for a visor. I’m also a defensive centre who blocks a lor of shots… Taken quite a few sticks so close to my sighted eye it was scary. Malhotra’s story is terrifying. I have rec hockey tonight, fuck it, I’m buying a visor from our equipment guy. Thanks Bourne

  7. So Bourne,

    Are you in favor of full visors?

  8. Although the idea of keeping players safe from injury is in the best interest of the NHL, team owners, fantasy teams and fans, these are grown men who have been playing the sport for many years. Being able to see the ice clearly is what makes some of the best players the best! When you take that ability away will we be mad if or when these players game production decreases? Let the men be men and hockey player be hockey players. They know what they signed up for.

    • But it is a disadvantage all players would share (if it even is a real disadvantage), most of the best scorers already have visors anyway, and if you lose a quality player to a puck or stick to the face it will have a much larger impact to on ice skill than a guy’s vision being ever so slightly obscurred.

    • This has nothing to do with “seeing the ice better”, nobody’s production is going to decline significantly (see Nick Lidstrom). And it doesn’t make the best players the best? The best players actually wear visors (Crosby, Malkin, Stamkos, Ovechkin). This is about a culture. It’s about hockey players feeling tough.

      It’s like the old quote: “If beer has never touched your lips, and you’ve never packed a lip, or dropped the mitts chances are you’re not a hockey player, and if you are you’re probably not a good one” -Todd Bertuzzi

      This may have been true 10-20 years ago, but nowadays, it’s not. It’s time for the NHL to get with the times.

  9. First thing’s first… I’m not THAT Brian Elliott.

    I always wear a full shield.
    A few years ago I had a ‘helmet malfunction’ and instead of fixing it, I just took the shield completely off. 2 games later I caught a stick to the mouth and lost a tooth. My wife wouldn’t kiss me until I had it capped. Fixing the helmet cost me almost $1 for mounting hardware, and took almost 3 full minutes of my time. Going to the dentist cost me a grand total of about $400 (down from about $1200 because I have insurance) and several hours of my time.
    So, NOW, I always wear a full shield.

  10. I seem to recall the ECHL’s players association (PHPA?) making them manditory a few years back. The world has not fallen apart. AHL too, apparently:

    http://www.oursportscentral.com/services/releases/?id=3335944

    Seems like a no brainer for the NHL to do. If they want, they could grandfather it in (like they did helmets…I’m looking at you Craig MacTavish).

  11. I don’t mind cages one bit for rec hockey. I’d think they’d become a defenseman’s best friend.

  12. with the new cages avail that are so easy to see through, its funny to play with the guys is rec league who believe their sight to the puck is so superior with their visors. Then after the game see the cuts, bruises, and blood to go along with that belief.

    In the pros, John said earlier, its the culture of being a bad ass. But, some will learn the hard way what its like being the bad ass from yesteryear after you’ve left the game early from a preventable injury.

  13. I wear a Bauer Concept II bubble and it saved me from a puck in the eye not two weeks ago. It’s amazing how much less visors fog than when I was a kid. They sit further off the face so that there is more airflow and fog very little. If they do, a bit of hockey-spit rubbed in fixes it.

    This is a no-brainer.

  14. A guy I play rec with got hit with a puck over the eyesocket from a clearing pass off the glass-not a direct hit, but the puck was flat when it hit him.. Broke his orbital, the bone above the socket, and they barely saved his sight-he has about 10% vision in that eye. He needed skin grafts, etc. Probably cost a forturne! He came back a year later, (with a visor) but like Malhotra, he is not the player he used to be, missing the puck, overskating it, etc. I watched Manny play for the OHL Guelph Storm in the Memorial Cup against the Winter Hawks. He had a visor on then, but not as an NHL player when you make the big coin and the pucks travel even faster? C’mon boys, use them brains!

  15. Amen Bourne. Visors should be mandatory.

    So sad what has happened to Manny. At 32, his body is still fully capable, but that eye is a big problem.

    I hope, if this really is the end of his NHL career, that he finds a place in the coaching staff. He’s a smart guy, well respected by the team and community, and he really does have a talent for coaching (he tends to run drills in the off season, and was a pseudo coach while he was healing from his eye injury in 2011).

  16. The players have to wear them in the Olympics so if it’s good enough for them then I’m sure they would be ok if it was mandatory.

  17. For the life of me I can’t understand why owners have not incentivized their players to wear visors. I have to think that a majority of guys would opt to wear one if it meant an extra $50-100,000 in a contract or whatever, and he owners would mot assuredly save money on medical fees and insurance.

    • See bird_dog’s comment and John’s inclusion of Bertuzzi’s quote in the stream above. It’s absolutely a workplace safety issue and an employment liability issue. But unfortunately, franchise and NHL brass are more worried about challenging a long-outdated, macho cultural bias within the sport that hails guys who play with minimal facial protection as penultimate hockey tough guys. Management’s priorities are obviously skewed – they’re more worried about enforcing still more stupid old boy crap like wearing suits for the 2-minute catwalk between hotel and team bus, or bus and visitor locker room.

      “Real men playing an honest, no-frills game.” Guys “going to war and battling” for their team, blah blah blah bullcrap bullcrap BULLCRAP. Most of these guys wouldn’t know a war if it exploded in their kitchen, for one. And for another, playing balls-deep and bare doesn’t mean you’re tougher or more worthy than anybody else. It’s an ignorant, archaic attitude that MUST change now. If a fishbowl will protect you from catastrophic, career-ending facial injury so you can I don’t know continue to play and support your family for a while, what’s not to love about that? Deal with the fucking fishbowl. It looks a lot less stupid than not being able to play anymore because you were too stubborn and insecure with your manhood that you actually thought you were being tough and macho by not protecting your face.

      Thank you for revisiting this issue, Justin. It’s a no-brainer.

  18. “If” the ice is a “workplace”, “if” my employee loses an eye and my company didn’t ensure he was doing everything possible to protect that eye, the company is now responsible and gets a nice fine. “If” that ever happens and the teams become even more responsible financially (other than insurance premiums) there will be changes.

  19. I started playing rec hockey in my late 20′s after 10 years off from the game. I just borrowed my bro-in-laws helment which had a pro style visor. Picture the Levar Burton from star trek…that level of protection. I had a scare when a meathead took a wild swipe at a puck with 2 seconds left in a 6-1 game that knocked my helmet up my and almost off my head. Nasty scratch on the face just below the eye. I had my first child with my wife two weeks later. As a dentist, I realized…what the hell am I doing risking my sight? Or my teeth (They are expensive to fix), plus I’m not much of a looker to begin with. As a bonus, now I block shots like a mad man since I’m full cage….(cue up the slapshot to the trachea) and my one way train to Dave Mansonville. haha

  20. Totally agree on the making visors mandatory movement. All throughout high school I played with a cage (given that it was the only option), and that wasn’t bad. Now that I’m in college and play a lot of pickup hockey, I switch to a three point visor to change things up every once in a while. Even then, I’m scared that I’m going to get hit where the visor just doesn’t protect me. In the end, I’ll stick with a cage/bigger visor. I mean, freak accidents occur and you only have two eyes to get you through life-the risks aren’t worth it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *