Philp: NHL Mandatory Visor Rule Is Overdue
Mandatory visor usage will be a main discussion topic of the NHL Competition Committee meeting today. Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman is a part of this committee and certainly has a strong opinion on the topic.
In 2004, while playing for the Red Wings, Yzerman was hit in the face by a tipped slapshot off the stick of Calgary Flames defenseman Rhett Warrener. The Hall of Fame player wasn’t wearing a visor and had to undergo 4½ hours of surgery for a scratched cornea and broken bone just below his left eye.
Yzerman wore a visor after that incident and has strongly urged his Tampa Bay Lightning players to do the same.
It is inevitable. The NHL is going to force its players to wear visors. While the “we must protect our players from themselves” mentality is a warped concept, it has become apparent that protecting players is the right thing to do.
It is not an impingement on the players’ personal freedom if the rule is grandfathered in.
According to the NHLPA, during the 2003-04 season, just 34% of players wore visors.
Currently, over 73% of NHL players voluntarily don visors.
The KHL, OHL, QMJHL, AHL and all European hockey leagues require their players to wear a visor. It seems that visors are required in every professional league except the NHL.
An informal poll conducted by the NHLPA showed that 65% of the membership was in favor of mandatory visors.
Of course the main proponents of mandatory visors are the players themselves…the players who were injured while not wearing one. The Flyers’ Chris Pronger, Vancouver’s Manny Malhotra and most recently, the Rangers Marc Staal.
Visors are not perfect as the Lightning’s Nate Thompson can attest to. On April 23, 2013, Thompson’s visor was shattered by a Mike Green slapshot resulting in eight stitches to his face. Although Thompson was cut by the visor, it certainly did its job and saved him from a serious and perhaps career ending injury.
The two biggest arguments against mandatory visors do not hold water if the new rule is grandfathered in.
The first argument that players cite is that any kind of cage or visor hampers their ability to see. This in fact may be true for the older players that have played in the NHL without visors for a long period of time. But, every player that comes into the NHL has worn a visor or cage all of their hockey life and knows no different. Grandfathering in the rule will appease the older, non-visor wearing group and simply would mean nothing different to the current crop of players.
The second argument is that making visors mandatory will detour and eventually take fighting out of the game. While many see this as a good result, a simple breakaway visor rule would solve the “problem.” After all, the NHL instituted the fighting strap rule in 1996. Players that choose to drop the gloves would first tear away their visors before they start throwing hay-makers.
Certainly Visors will go the way of helmets. Players made these same sorts of arguments when helmets were made mandatory in 1979. Can anyone imagine playing without a helmet now?
Leave your thoughts below, puckheads.
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