A hot topic of conversation around the NHL is whether or not visors should be made mandatory for all players around the league. Conversation on this topic was reignited last week when New York Rangers defenseman Marc Staal was hit in the eye by a slapshot from Kimmo Timonen that was redirected off of a stick.
Right now, players have the option to whether or not they want to wear visors. Some players have used visors for most of their hockey careers since they were kids, and other players exercise their right not to wear them in the NHL.
Players like Kevin Klein, who has worn a visor for his entire NHL career, don’t see anything wrong at all with wearing a visor.
“I pretty much have always worn a visor so there’s not any cons for me really. It pretty much saved my face in L.A. with a tipped puck. It caught my visor before it caught my face so it took a lot of the steam off of it, which was good. I’ve had that happen numerous times. Especially with some of the ice surfaces late in the games getting a little chewed up and pucks bounce. With all the shot blocking, pucks are flying everywhere. It’s a guy’s choice but at the same time, I don’t see any cons. I mean the pros definitely outweigh the cons. You only have two eyes,” Klein said.
Most players don’t have any problem at all with visors. The real issues comes to life when discussing whether or not wearing visors should be made mandatory. Nashville Predators captain Shea Weber is one of those players that does not wear a visor at the NHL level. Would it be right for the NHL to tell players like Weber that they have to wear visors when they haven’t been wearing them?
“It’s a tough situation all-around. Obviously, you don’t ever want to see someone get hit in the face or especially in the eye because it can be damaging for a long time, but on the other hand you’ve got guys that have played 1,000 or more games that don’t wear visors. I think it would be tough to try to tell guys that have played for that long and have played that many games to put a visor on after they haven’t worn it for 15 or 20 years,” said Weber, who was forced to wear a visor in the 2010 Olympics due to IIHF rules.
The debate on whether or not visors should be made mandatory isn’t an easy decision for players who already wear visors either. Obviously, visors being made mandatory wouldn’t have much of an impact on those players because they already wear visors anyway.
“It doesn’t matter to me personally, but if it could save one of my teammates from what happened to Marc Staal — I mean, you don’t like to see that. That sucks. You wouldn’t wish that upon anybody, so if they make it mandatory I hope that everyone kind of votes for it but at the same time, guys have a right to do what they want,” Klein said.
However, players who wear visors are hesitant to think about casting a vote that would lead to visors being made mandatory because they don’t want to take the choice out of the equation.
Klein flat out said that he wouldn’t cast a vote that would lead to visors being mandatory even though he thinks they’re very beneficial.
“No, because I wear one and it’s a choice. I’m not going to force anything upon one of my teammates,” Klein said. “My vote would be just to have it how it is or maybe grandfather it in. The fact now is in the American League, they all have to wear them so most guys go through that, and the other guys are coming from Europe and junior systems and they all wear them too. If they grandfather it in, at least they’ll protect the young guys and eventually, kind of like how when helmets first came in, it’ll kind of work it’s way into the league.”
Other players say that players who don’t wear visors know exactly what they’re risking when they’re not wearing them and that right to choose shouldn’t be taken away from them in a sport where toughness has always been highly valued.
“I don’t think they should necessarily make it mandatory. I think it’s up to each person. They know what they’re risking and everything like that. It’s unfortunate to see a top player get pucks in the eye when it could be avoided, but it’s hockey. We were playing without helmets,” said Predators forward Colin Wilson.
The grandfathering argument is an interesting one. The NHL did the same thing with helmets. Helmets were made mandatory in 1979, but players who were playing in the NHL before the rule was made had the choice to continue not wearing a helmet if they chose to do so. Former player Craig MacTavish is known for being the last NHL player to not wear a helmet, and he retired after the 1996-97 season. Every player that has come in to the league after that rule was made has been forced to wear a helmet. Applying the same idea to visors seems to be more appealing for current players.
“If they grandfather it in, then I’m sure that’s going to be a little bit better for everybody who’s not wearing them right now,” Wilson said.
Visors have become one of the most highly debated topics in hockey, and the debate will continue as long as players who don’t wear one continue to get hit in the face. The last time the visors topic was this hotly debated was back in 2011 when Vancouver Canucks forward Manny Malhotra suffered permanent damage to his eye from a puck carom. His teammate Henrik Sedin recently spoke out about the topic:
The Canucks captain believes it’s a no-brainer that the NHLPA should take action.
“They have to,” he said. “If guys aren’t doing it, somebody has to make the choice for them. Guys are wearing shot-blockers for their skates. I feel bad for what happened to Staal and Manny.”