Staal, who was lucky enough not to suffer a career-ending eye injury when he was hit by a shot against the Philadelphia Flyers on March 5, recently said his vision is still not back to normal, per Andrew Gross of the Record.
Additionally, he wishes he had been wearing a visor that day.
Staal said, via the David Shoalts of the Globe and Mail: “It was the first thing that went through my mind when I hit the ice. I should have been wearing a visor. But hindsight is 20/20."
The NHL Players’ Association is expected to hold a vote over the summer concerning new rules pertaining to the use of visors in the league, according to the Shoalts' report. All players entering the league could be required to wear visors after the vote. There could also be a "grandfather rule" that would give current players the option to wear visors.
Staal's brothers, Eric and Jordan of the Carolina Hurricanes, have already started using visors after Staal's eye injury that also left him with facial fractures. The rest of the league should act accordingly.
*WARNING: Video NSFW
Staal said he would favor giving current players the option to wear visors, but I think every player in the league—for his own safety—should wear a visor. There is absolutely no reason a player shouldn't wear a visor. You could say some players are not used to it, but what's worse, feeling a little awkward in the beginning or potentially suffering a career-ending face injury? It should be a no-brainer.
Hockey will always be a violent sport. There is no getting around that. But there are things the league and players can do to at least make it safer. Everyone loses if a star gets injured, even those owners who prefer to fill their pockets than care about the players. It frankly shouldn't have taken a scary injury to Staal to prompt a vote over the use of visors, but at least it got everyone's attention and could potentially be the catalyst to a rule change.
Face protection is mandatory for all youth hockey leagues in North America (h/t Shoalts). Just because you get bigger and stronger doesn't mean you're indestructible. It's time for players to realize this and act accordingly before anyone gets seriously hurt over something that was avoidable all along.