They obscure a player’s vision. They’re uncomfortable. Tough guys don’t wear them. Hockey is becoming overprotective.
Sound familiar? Those were the arguments used by hockey “purists” not so many decades ago against goalie masks.
Fast forward a couple of decades, and you can trot out the same old arguments against helmets.
Fast forward a few more, and now it’s visors. Some things never change.
It took the visionary Jacques Plante to make goalie masks acceptable, and it didn’t hurt that he was one of the best at his position. It took the death of Bill Masterton – and ten long years of debate and heel-dragging - for the NHL to bow to the obvious and protect the players’ craniums. Will it take the death of another player to finally convince the league and its players to protect their eyes?
Perhaps it will, because it didn’t take this:
Manny Malhotra after being hit with a shot. He might as well have BEEN shot.
And it didn’t take this:
Johnny Boychuk’s slapshot has been clocked at 105 mph. Everyone praised Stamkos for returning to the game after the shield dug a substantial chunk out of his nose, but everyone seems to have dismissed or not even considered the very real possibility that if he had not been wearing it, the puck would have struck him right between the eyes, and it’s very likely the Lightning would have been dedicating this season to a dead teammate.
The NHL is the only hockey league in the world that does not require its players to wear visors. Rookies come into the league today having worn visors their entire lives. Thankfully, the majority of players are keeping them on – the NHLPA, according to the Associated Press, says more than 65 percent of players under 30 wear visors. But if one player is killed or disabled because he doesn’t wear a visor, that’s one too many.
Visors aren’t magic. Nobody believes that wearing one will keep a player safe from all harm. But protecting eyes, like protecting genitals, should be a no-brainer. Anyone want to suggest players forego playing with a protective cup?
And to paraphrase Mae West, macho (like goodness) has nothing to do with it. A puck, stick or skate doesn’t care who is or isn’t a tough guy. If a player wants to fight, he can take a second to flip his lid, just as he drops his stick and gloves.
The CBA is up for renewal this summer, and hopefully the leadership will take these warnings to heart and protect the players from themselves. If a few holdouts are adamant, follow the protocol established by the helmet rule and grandfather visors in. And hopefully a couple of decades from now, we can all look back and laugh at the idea of NHL players not protecting the most valuable of God’s gifts – their sight.
Photo via Getty Images