Monday, May 12, 2008

The great visor debate

It seems like every time there is a facial injury that could have been avoidable, a cry for mandating visors comes out. This time, Eric McErlain has a solid chronicling at the Fan House of Braydon Coburn's situation where he makes a good point: players modify their equipment in several ways to straddle the line of safety vs. performance. Greg Wyshynski! has a pretty comprehensive round up of all the cries for change if you'd like to see a lot of different opinions.

Our opinion is it should be the players choice. Sure a visor does offer more protection, but it's kinda like carry a small fire extinguisher into a fully involved house fire: it might do you some good but it's not going to get the job done. If the NHL was serious about this they would mandate the "cages", full wire protection that will stop all errant sticks/pucks from hitting the eyes and face. Maybe factor in throat protectors too. But where is the line drawn? Injuries are an unfortunate but unavoidable result of the sport of hockey. Sure you could put players in protective little bubbles and everyone would be 100% at the end of the game, but then that game would no longer be hockey.

We played in leagues that mandated cages (most under 18 leagues do nowadays for legal and insurance reasons). The amount of careless stickwork that goes on in those leagues, from our experience, was terrible. It was sloppy and pretty dangerous.

Visors fog, cages hinder vision so players will resist. The peer pressure aspect that McErlain hits on we don't think is as prominent now as it may have been 10-15 years ago. You look around the league and see most of the best young players with visors (Crosby, Ovechkin, Malkin, Kovalchuk, Heatley, etc) and even tough guys like Dion Phaneuf, Jarome Iginla and NHL hits leader Dustin Brown don the shield.

In the end, we just found visors/cages to cumbersome and worth the risk of ditching for more comfortable play. Would it be the end of the world to us if the NHL mandated it? No, not really, unlike so many others this issue doesn't really seem to touch off a strong emotion. And, though we don't have exact numbers, it seems like every year more and more young players are wearing visors so this is probably more than a trend.

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