With news yesterday that Vancouver Canucks faceoff phenom Manny Malhotra will miss the rest of the season and playoffs due to a puck in the eye, the forward depth of the league's best team took a large hit.
Malhotra's value to the team cannot be measured. He is the league's second-best faceoff man, has been a large part in the Canucks' impressive penalty kill and is a big-body presence on the third line.
Despite these voids left by Malhotra, this injury is about much more than hockey.
There are concerns that his eye will never regain full sight, let alone whether he will ever be able to play again. If that doesn't at least get players seriously thinking about wearing visors, I'm not sure anything will.
With the current concerns about headshots in the NHL, the visor issue has fallen by the wayside. Malhotra's scary injury should be reason enough to bring this issue back to light.
It seems barbaric that the NHLPA is continuing to fight grandfathering a rule that would not force any current NHL players to adopt visors but start making them mandatory for players coming into the league, just as the league did with helmets.
Helmets were met with similar resistance when they were introduced. Playing without a helmet seems like a foolish decision that would end in almost certain injury. The game is changing, and the NHLPA must allow for the equipment to keep up.
Players must already wear a visor all throughout juniors, so they are already familiar with it, and the argument that it obstructs a player's play is weak. Of the league's top 10 scorers, just one, Martin St. Louis, doesn't wear a visor.
I find it hard to believe that without a visor, Sidney Crosby would've been able to better his mark of 66 points in 41 games. Performance does not seem to be an issue.
Ryan Getzlaf adopted a visor after getting hit right between the eyes by a Shane Doan shot this year. The big center was thankful for his close call, and it ended up scaring him into playing with the shield.
There are many instances of a player getting a "close call" that scares them into using a visor. Unfortunately for Malhotra, he didn't get that luxury. He got hit directly in the eye and now faces uncertainty about his long-term vision moving forward.
Why wait for another injury?
Start protecting the players as soon as possible before more players lose their career, or even eyesight.
The solution is simple. It's not as complex an issue as headshots. It's a simple shield that many players already play with and seems to be a no-brainer to enforce.
Malhotra recently visited his Canuck teammates with a large bandage over his eye. Reports out of the room say it was an emotional, rattling experience for his teammates, especially the ones currently not wearing a shield.
Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa will apparently try out a visor in practice after seeing the damage a fluke deflection caused to his friend and teammate.
I wish Malhotra all the best and hope that the worst is not confirmed. Canucks fans would love to see him back in the lineup next year, but most of all I hope that he can eventually return to health.
I just hope that his injury does not go in vain, and the NHLPA can finally see the light and begin to protect their players.
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