Chris Pronger and the 10 Worst NHL Injuries Visors Would Have Prevented

Jason Sapunka@moreSapunkaCorrespondent IINovember 1, 2011

Chris Pronger and the 10 Worst NHL Injuries Visors Would Have Prevented

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    Last week, Philadelphia Flyers captain Chris Pronger was on the painful end of a stick-to-face incident with Mikhail Grabovski of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

    Initial reports of the injury were certainly a cause for concern, but the updates are reassuring. "Chris saw Dr. Goldman again today. He continues to improve daily," Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said.

    The injury sparked an immediate debate over whether or not visors should be mandatory in the NHL, since the equipment may have prevented Pronger's injury.

    Currently, the NHL gives players an option to wear the shield or not. Many junior leagues make it mandatory.

    Pronger's close call is sure to make many wonder whether or not playing without the protection is worth the risk, though it is not the worst injury of this sort.

Manny Malhotra

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    After the puck was passed towards center ice, Manny Malhotra attempted to get his stick down and touch the puck, battling Erik Johnson of the Colorado Avalanche.

    The puck deflected directly into Malhotra's eye. (Picture here.)

    The event occurred on March 16, 2011. Malhotra underwent two eye surgeries and was not expected to return that season. However, with the Vancouver Canucks making it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals, he was able to compete again.

    Malhotra played in the final six games of the series, just two months after the injury that seemed career threatening.

Darryl Boyce

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    Another injury that occurred last season affected the nose of Darryl Boyce. As he attempted a hit going towards the corner boards, he missed.

    His face hit a hole in the glass meant for photographers.

    A portion of his nose was nearly ripped off (disturbing picture here).

    Boyce started wearing a visor after the injury.

Steve Yzerman

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    During Game 5 of the 2004 Western Conference Semifinals, Steve Yzerman was hit in the eye by a deflected slapshot.

    Yzerman's orbital bone broke and his cornea was scratched. (Picture here.) He played just one more NHL season, wearing a shield after the injury.

Al MacInnis

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    Al MacInnis was hit in the eye by a high stick during the 2001 season. Later in his career, during the 2003-04 season, MacInnis suffered a detached retina in the same eye.

    He missed the rest of that season and did not return after the lockout.

Bryan Berard

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    One of the most serious NHL eye injuries was the one that threatened the career of Bryan Berard in March 2000.

    Berard was hit in the eye by the follow-through of a slapshot, causing a torn and detached retina.

    Seven eye operations and one missed season later, Berard returned to the NHL.

Glen Sharpley

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    Glen Sharpley described his career-changing injury as follows:

    It was the first shift of the game; I was in the neutral zone coming towards (Capitals defenseman Darren Veitch) like I’m supposed to. He picked the puck up off the boards and…I assumed that he was going to go up the boards with it, but he turned and fired it right through me and then the stick came up and caught me right in the eye. It was the first shift of the game. I just wasn’t prepared for it.

    He could not see out of the eye after the event. Though he returned to play in the playoffs that season, it was his last in the NHL.

    Sharpley now sells helmets and visors at his sporting goods store in Ontario.

Kevin Smyth

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    In 1996 Kevin Smyth of the Hartford Whalers was hit in the eye by a deflected slapshot. Smyth lost all vision in the eye and also received a broken orbital.

    He would not play in the NHL again.

Jeff Libby

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    In 1998, Jeff Libby received what is probably the nightmare of all facial injuries: a skate cut his eyeball.

    The eye had to be removed and Libby never played hockey again.

    More info on the injury can be found here.

Ian Laperriere

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    After taking a slapshot to the face, "Lappy" was attended to by a trainer. He asked, "Is my eyeball still there?"

    His eye was still intact, but Laperriere sustained a career-ending concussion. Though he came back to finish the 2010 playoffs, post-concussion syndrome has kept him out of the lineup since.

    Lappy said he would be wearing a visor if he returned to hockey.

    If the detached retinas, lost eyes and ruined careers are not enough of a reason to convince players to wear visors, perhaps Ian Laperriere has a better one: "I want to see my kids grown up with both eyes."

Bernie Parent

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    There was a time when goalies did not wear helmets. It seems ridiculous, as NHL goalies are now required to wear a league-approved helmet.

    Jacques Plante began regularly wearing a helmet in 1959 after breaking his nose. Wearing a helmet was a ridiculous notion back then, just as not wearing one is now.

    Still, the old-style masks were not protective enough.

    Vezina-winning goalie Bernie Parent had his career cut short when a stick went into the eye hole of his goalie mask. After the injury, goalies began wearing the cage-style helmet that is most common today.

    Skaters were not required to wear a helmet until 1979.

    The NHL's protective equipment has become increasingly safe over the years. The league has gone from no headgear, to goalie masks, to skater helmets, to improved goalie masks. Perhaps visors are the next step in this revolution of player protection.

    Roughly 60 percent of NHL players already wear visors. With the mandatory rule instated in junior leagues, most young players enter the NHL used to wearing it.

    Though freedom and comfort need to be considered, "You could lose your vision" is a hard argument to counteract. Why would a player refuse to wear a visor?

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