The NHL has to do everything it can to reasonably protect its players.
In the late 1960s, a number of goaltenders did not wear masks and the vast majority of skaters did not wear helmets.
Times have changed dramatically. No goalie would ever consider going to the crease without a colorful mask, and when Bill Masterton of the Minnesota North Stars fell backwards and hit his head on the ice in 1968 and died shortly thereafter, helmet-less players were on their way out in the NHL (source: northstarshockey.com).
It's time for the NHL and the NHL Players' Association to make all skaters wear visors. They need to be a mandatory piece of equipment.
There have been enough accidents that its time to take the step to protect players who fail to protect themselves.
The latest incident involved defenseman Marc Staal of the New York Rangers, who was struck in the eye by the puck on a slap shot by Kimmo Timonen of the Philadelphia Flyers.
Staal was in a normal defensive position when Timonen let loose with a slap shot from just inside the blue line. The puck was on Staal in an instant, and he went down in a heap, writhing in pain.
Staal left the ice bleeding. He was not wearing a shield.
Staal's brothers, Eric and Jordan, both play in the NHL for the Carolina Hurricanes. Both were obviously upset about their brother's injury, but neither player wears a shield.
Eric Staal said the subject needs to be open for debate, but he wouldn't call for mandatory shields for all skaters despite his brother's injury.
However, Carolina Hurricanes head coach Kirk Muller told Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News & Observer that making visors mandatory makes sense for the NHL.
“It’s different today,” Muller told Alexander. “We were never brought up with it or thought of wearing them. The thing about today is the pace of the game is so fast ...
“The most valuable part of your body in hockey are the eyes. It’s starting to make more and more sense now that we make (visors) mandatory.”
Eye injuries are clearly horrific occurrences and players like Manny Malhotra, Chris Pronger and Bryan Berard are among those who have been damaged severely by eye injuries as a result of taking a puck or stick to the eye area.
There are still many players who don't wear visors; many feel like it impacts their vision negatively and that it's also an encumbrance.
Jason Chimera of the Washington Capitals says that he doesn't wear a visor because he's used to the feeling of not wearing one and he wants to keep that freedom.
“I’ve always liked not having one on,” Chimera told the Washington Times. “You go for so long wearing not one that when you wear one it messes up your sight lines and stuff.”
Chimera admitted that he has thought about it and gets pressure from family members, but he is not ready to take that step. However, there's too much horrific damage that has been done and can happen every night.
The NHL needs to sit down with the NHLPA and come to an agreement on making this happen.
It's not about players' freedoms and rights. It's about providing adequate protection from vicious, awful injuries that don't need to be a part of the game.
Whether it is grandfathered in or simply a rule change that is imposed, players need to be protected from 100-mile-per-hour slap shots and errant high sticks.