New York Rangers defenseman Marc Staal was hit in the eye with a puck on Tuesday night and left the game after a scary scene at Madison Square Garden, one that has reinvigorated the call for mandatory visors in the NHL.
Is forcing all players to wear visors something that the NHL and NHLPA must look at in the near future? Yes, and they can't do it soon enough.
In 2009, TSN talked to a few players about wearing visors. Ethan Moreau, who retired from the NHL after last season, was one of them.
"I've always said there's no intelligent argument not to wear one," said Moreau, who'd played 771 NHL games without a visor until he returned against Atlanta.
"I never took a stance on visors in the last 10 years, I just didn't wear one. I chose not to. It's unfortunate to go through an eye injury like I went through to realize I should wear one. There's not really an argument why you shouldn't."
Larry Brooks of The New York Post shared NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly's comments about visors on Wednesday morning via Twitter:
Larry Brooks @NYP_Brooksie
Bill Daly tells Post via email that issue of mandatory visors was "discussed briefly" during CBA talks but was "no traction for change..."3/6/2013, 4:48:18 PM
Larry Brooks @NYP_Brooksie
Daly: "To be clear, the League is in favor of a mandatory rule requiring the use of visors."3/6/2013, 4:52:40 PM
The NHL is typically slow in creating new rules that help make the game safer, even after its players suffer scary injuries that have threatened their hockey careers.
This is the same league that didn't make helmets mandatory until the 1979-80 season, and even then, players who were under contract prior to that point were grandfathered in and were not forced to wear helmets. Former St. Louis Blues forward Craig MacTavish was the last player to not wear a helmet when he retired after the 1996-97 season.
Staal's injury (video below) is the most recent incident where a visor could have protected a player from a puck that was shot or deflected near someone's face.
Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger took an accidental stick to the face in October of 2011 and suffered an eye injury.
He has not returned to the Flyers since that game due to concussion-like symptoms and his NHL career is likely over. Would a visor have helped Pronger avoid an injury in that instance? Probably not, but it might have lessened the impact of the stick hitting his face.
During the 2005-06 season, Portland Pirates defenseman Jordan Smith actually lost vision in his left eye after being hit with a puck, which resulted in the AHL making visors mandatory for all of its players. Visors are also required in the ECHL.
How many players are going to suffer eye injuries before the NHL takes the obvious steps (such as mandatory visors) necessary to lessen the chances of these types of incidents from happening?
With so many players blocking shots these days by throwing themselves onto the ice to stop powerful slap shots (some at 100-plus mph) from players like Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara, the NHL has been lucky that there haven't been any tragic injuries where players' lives have been in danger.
The chances of players suffering concussions and eye injuries would likely be lessened if visors were used throughout the league because they provide a strong barrier of protection between the puck and a player's face.
One example of a player avoiding a serious injury occurred in Game 7 of the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals when Tampa Bay Lightning star Steven Stamkos took a slap shot deflection off the face, which hit his visor.
Stamkos was in a ton of pain, but he was able to return to the game quickly and not miss a single shift. Without a visor, the young star might have been in a lot of trouble.
The arguments against visors are laughable. Players complain that it's sometimes hard to see when wearing them, which is ridiculous. Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby, Patrick Kane and Stamkos already wear visors, and it doesn't prevent them from finishing among the league leaders in scoring on a yearly basis.
Some people complain about visors getting fogged up at times, but this isn't an issue that occurs on a frequent basis. Another potential issue is comfort, but that's something that can be fixed and isn't an issue as players get used to wearing this type of equipment. Nearly every player who is in the NHL has already worn a visor/cage at some point in his career, whether it was in juniors, the AHL or the NCAA.
There are zero reasons for the NHL to not make visors mandatory as soon as possible. The time to make visors part of the game isn't after a player suffers a serious injury that puts his life in danger, it's before a tragic event happens.
Not enforcing visors for all players, starting with the 2013-14 season, would be an incredibly irresponsible move by the NHL.
I'm not just talking about young players or ones that are just coming into the league. All players, even the 35-year-old veterans who have spent 15 seasons in the NHL, should wear visors. No one should get grandfathered in. Safety is more important than personal preference.
This league has put a lot of emphasis on player safety over the last few years as we have learned more and more about the dangers of concussions. If the NHL really wants to make the game safer and help prevent gruesome injuries, the next step must be making every player wear a visor.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter. He was a credentialed reporter at the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and 2012 NHL playoffs.
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