Visors in the National Hockey League. It is the number one discussed topic involving equipment and safety between fans, players and management today. Currently, over 73 percent of players in the NHL wear visors attached to their helmets. That number is much better than what it was pre-lockout.
In 2003-04, a mere 34% of players wore visors according to the NHLPA.
Wearing a visor is becoming popular among hockey players around the globe. Players are required to wear visors in the Kontinental Hockey League, Canadian Hockey League (OHL, WHL and QMJHL), American Hockey League, International Ice Hockey Federation and Europe.
The lone league not mandating the extra protection is the NHL.
In an informal poll by the NHLPA, over 65% of players were in support of mandating visors immediately. Most likely another 30% was for grandfathering it in.
New York Rangers defenseman Marc Staal, who suffered a severe eye injury in March when getting hit in the eye with a puck, voted in the poll. Said Staal, “I don't want anyone to go through what I did.”
Staal told the media in the Rangers’ locker clean up that his right eye would never be able to fully heal.
In 2011, Vancouver Canucks forward Manny Malhotra took a puck to his eye after being deflected. Malhotra has yet to fully recover from the severe eye injury, which may end up forcing him to retire from his professional hockey career.
Malhotra was not wearing a visor at the time.
Then of course there is the potential season ending eye injury to Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger, who took a high stick from Mikhail Grabovski in the eye. Along with Staal and Malhotra, Pronger was not wearing a visor.
There are plenty of cases where visors can prevent injuries for players. However, I do not see the need to force visors on any player in the league as of now. But it can be grandfathered in.
Multiple players in the NHL have different reasons as to not wearing one, but the most popular is the lack of vision. Some feel their vision is blurred at times. Visors are prone to fogginess and smearing. If a player has either of those problems on his visor during a shift, the benefits of wearing it would be wiped away.
“When I broke [into the league], I didn’t wear one, and you see better without one,” Jarome Iginla told Randy Sportak of the Calgary Sun. “But it just wasn’t worth it to me. Each guy has that decision.”
Iginla and Klein, who both wear visors, feel players should have the right to decide whether or not to wear visors. Said Iginla: “If it was grandfathered in, I’d be all for it. Guys who come out of juniors, it wouldn’t be an adjustment.”
“I wear one and it’s a choice. I’m not going to force anything upon one of my teammates,” Klein said to Robby Stanley of Smashville 24/7. “My vote would be just to have it how it is or maybe grandfather it in.”
Klein is one of 18 players on the Nashville Predators wear visors. Only five do not wear them.
Another thing to look at is the effect visors will have on fighting. As much as some may not want it to be a part of the game, it is. In some cities, it is the driving force of a small group of fans to show up to a NHL game.
Fighting with visors on is extremely dangerous and can lead to a sliced hand or even cause the player wearing the visor to cut himself in the facial region.
If visors are mandated, fighting should be eliminated from the NHL as well.
After reading that sentence, you may be gasping and thinking the simple solution would be to remove the helmets of those fighting. But that can lead to a player hitting the back of his head on the ice, leading to a concussion. How much safety is the NHL promoting then?
Visors are not indefensible and cannot prevent all injuries. In an April 23, 2013 game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals, Caps defenseman Mike Green’s slap-shot shattered Lightning forward Nate Thompson’s visor and cut the side of his right eye.
That night was a wakeup call to the pro-visor activists that they aren’t as protective as they are all made out to be.
Eventually all players will be wearing visors. When looking at the trend, it could happen within the next five to ten years.
To summarize, it should be a choice for players to wear visors or not. Mandating them would force numerous cause-and-effects that the league could not handle.