It is inevitable the NHL will eventually implement a mandatory visor policy. So what’re we waiting for?
On Monday, March 22, Canadiens left winger Travis Moen had a 50-stitch zipper installed in his face that YKK could’ve sponsored. Luckily, his black cloud has a shining silver lining – he didn’t lose his eyes.
Facial lacerations, scars and bruises are practically the calling card of NHL veterans. So much so that when some people meet a normal-looking hockey player post-career, they’ll comment on it. You played hockey? I never would’ve guessed, you look fine!
There is, miraculously, a product that can eliminate half of these injuries, by covering half the face. Relative unknowns in the league have tried it with moderate success: Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Pavel Datsyuk and Evgeni Malkin are among the few players in the test group, last I checked. I guess we’ll have to wait until after their careers to find out if the visor is possible to adjust to.
I myself was once a be-shielded hockey player and my repeatedly broken nose is evidence that a visor does not guarantee safety. But the other half of the story is told in those shields I’ve had to throw into the trash due to puck marks and scratches that would’ve otherwise been shredding my all-too-pretty face.
I understand this wearing of the shield thing is not ideal – sometimes it fogs up, or gets scratched in just the wrong spot. And I can relate – I love the freedom I feel when I play pond hockey, because I’m not wearing hockey pants. But at what point does preference take a back seat to common sense? My preference is not to wear those irritating seatbelts, but I’d also prefer to not fly through a glass windshield if I get in a car accident.
I’m all for letting people make their own decisions, but I haven’t heard of a single person protected by a state helmet law that was still bummed to be wearing one after an accident – and they didn’t have the choice to wear one or not. It’s just amazing we even have to make it a rule. Like Jerry Seinfeld said: “The idea behind the helmet law is to preserve a brain, whose judgment is so poor, that it doesn't even try to prevent the cracking of the head it's in.” I can’t believe we have to protect these guys from themselves.
If you’re the owner of a team paying a million dollars for the services of a hockey player (like Moen), aren’t you upset the guy is on the sidelines because he didn’t take necessary precautions? As their boss, wouldn’t you feel the need to mandate your employees wear safety goggles around dangerous, flying objects?
This is one of those things that’s going to happen, because it can add safety to the game without taking anything from it. It’s not a question of free will – these guys work for the NHL, so the league can make them do/wear whatever they want them to.
Some players even think the shields are an advantage because it’s harder for defensemen and goalies to see your eyes and eyes matter, just ask anyone on the defensive side of the puck. The slightly tinted visor isn’t a fashion statement like stupid yellow laces; it has a purpose.
So why wait? NHL rulings on topics like this one don’t need to run through a slogging bureaucracy of red tape and signatures. Smart minds work there. Have a conversation and do the obvious – let the guys who currently choose to go no-visor stay as idiots. But don’t let one rookie do it ever again. It’s already mandatory in the American League and below, so make the move. I’m not even close to the first to suggest this.
Not only is it a step in the right direction, but once 90 percent of the league has visors on, I have to believe the stubborn mules would start to think twice about putting their faces out there while pucks hum by their chin on a nightly basis.
I had to wear a cage in college and learned the human brain is an amazing thing – it completely blocks the bars out. After five or six practices, I never thought about it again. When I got to make the switch to a visor in pro, the same thing happened and I’m by no means an anomaly. It will happen for everyone.
There’s no need to play with fire on this one, our vision is just too important. A simple change needs to be made, NHL. Can’t you see that clearly?
Justin Bourne last played for the Idaho Steelheads of the ECHL and is currently a columnist for USA Today. He excelled with the University of Alaska Anchorage before going on to spend time in the Islanders organization with Bridgeport and Utah. His father, Bob, spent 14 years in the NHL and won four Cups with the Islanders. He will blog regularly for THN.com and you can read more of Justin's blogs at jtbourne.com. Follow Justin on Twitter.