Saturday, 15 March 2008

Visors And Neck Guards Revisited

I went into great detail why the NHL should be making visors and neck guards mandatory as soon as possible in the article entitled "Throats Are Better Than Eyes?". In that article, I gave several glaring examples about how visors should be a mandatory piece of equipment in the NHL since they are mandatory pieces of equipment everywhere else. With that, most leagues are now enforcing that neck guards be mandatory as well after watching what happened to Richard Zednik. Again, I find it absolutely insane that the NHL can promote all sorts of protective equipment but not save a player's face. However, that's just me.

On the other hand, several media outlets have now joined the fight. We'll start with a highly-respected hockey media team in the panel from TSN.

I'm no Pierre McGuire fan, but he is absolutely right.

Speaking of protecting eyes, I found a picture of Steve Yzerman after he was hit in the face with the puck. I warn you now: this picture is a little disturbing. If you have any problems with seeing blood or injuries, don't click here. That alone is a very good reason to wear a visor, and it makes me a little queasy.

Carrying on with media outlets who have more common sense than the NHL, the CBC is another major hockey player in the media world. Of course, they carry the NHL's flagship program in Hockey Night In Canada, and they have always had a pulse on the hockey world.

In 2000, after Bryan Berard's injury, the CBC had a story on their website about making visors mandatory. The article is small, but there is one telling statistic in that story. Dr. Tom Pashby states that he has treated over 300 eye injuries from hockey, and that "of the 309 blind eyes I have seen, none occurred to a player wearing [a visor]. I'd like to see it mandatory in the NHL. We'd save eyes."

In a second CBC story about the number of players wearing visors in the NHL, the CBC found that the leage average in 2005 was "8.1 visors per team". They also sought out the best and worst teams for visor-equipped players, and found that "[t]he Colorado Avalanche lead the way with 13 players, with the Ottawa Senators and Philadelphia Flyers next with 12 apiece. The Chicago Blackhawks and defending Stanley Cup-champion Tampa Bay Lightning have the least with four players each."

Being that the CBC has no bearing on what happens within the NHL, the latter story makes no plea for players to use their heads. However, when eight of 22 players in an NHL team are wearing visors and with the number increasing, the decision to make them mandatory seems elementary.

Ryan Dixon of The Hockey News makes a much better case in his blog, Top Shelf, entitled "Visors will never win when players have choice". In it, he speaks about how former NHLer Mike Keane, now with the AHL's Manitoba Moose, appreciates wearing the visor after being lucky for so many years: "Now in his third season with the American League’s Manitoba Moose, the 40-year-old Keane continues to wear a visor – not just because his league mandates it – but because he recognizes the painfully obvious dangers of not wearing one after eluding a lifetime’s worth of flying pucks, sticks and elbows."

He speaks about Jordan Smith, the former Ducks' prospect, who lost an eye after being struck by a puck. Jordan has gone from playing in the AHL with the Portland Pirates with an NHL dream to playing Canadian university hockey for the Thunder Bay-based Lakehead Thunderwolves. On visors, Smith says, "The bottom line is it's a good idea. If it minimizes some serious injuries, who knows if it saves one guy, then it's worth it. It's definitely a good idea. It's common sense. And it's a very smart thing to do."

These are three major players in the media world when it comes to the game of hockey. All three media outlets have shown that there should be something put in place to help players protect themselves. I am at a loss as to why the NHL and NHLPA cannot come to some sort of agreement in regards to making visors and neck guards mandatory.

Society has changed. We used to resist the ideas of mandatory seat belts, a ban on drivers using cell phones, and smoke-free bars. Now, we embrace it. It's clear that these rules save lives. Why is it that NHL players cannot see the importance of visors when it comes to seeing? The league's owners and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman support making visors mandatory, but they can't impose it on the players without the union's blessing. And the union can't make it so without the blessing of its members.

Sometimes, the right thing to do isn't always the most popular. I'm surprised that NHL players haven't figured this out yet.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!


Kirsten said...

My golden retriever has more sense than the NHL when it comes to most things. (corking his nose in a fence chasing things nonwithstanding.)

Anonymous said...

I've looked at a couple of hockey blogs, and this is very well written. Great insight on the visors.

I think Carolina's Ruutu is a fine example of the need for visors.