SANTA CRUZ, June 7, 2013 — This week the National Hockey League (NHL) Competition Committee agreed to make visors mandatory for all players starting next year. If approved by the board of governors, all current players would have the option to wear a visor while those entering the league next year will be required to affix facial protection to their helmets.
It is a long overdue decision, especially considering the horrific eye injury suffered by Marc Staal of the New York Rangers this season. In the past, players who have forgone visors have argued that they obstruct their vision. Given the breakneck pace of play and the velocity with which frozen pucks are currently being hurled, slapped and deflected, these protestations hardly offset the risk for permanent injury which visors are meant to protect against.
Every NHL player wore either a visor in junior or a full cage in college so they ought to be able to play their game (the games which got them into the NHL) while wearing eye protection.
If they are worried about their toughness being questioned they shouldn’t be. Any player getting a regular shift in the NHL has already proven themselves just to get there.
The NHL, like most professional leagues, is often mired in entrenched ideologies but it is encouraging to see evidence that the NHL possesses the ability to evolve, particularly in the area of player safety, without sacrificing the speed and beauty of the game. Progressive hockey fans can hope the board of governors approves the change and that the league will institute it next season.
It was not so long ago that a helmeted NHL player was an oddity and, even more recently, play was routinely stopped for something called a two line pass. There must exist a delicate balance between preserving the true essence of the game while keeping the door open to changes and tweaks, which make sense. The purists and Neanderthals will always struggle with change, but fans and players alike agree that the game has never been better.
Now the league just needs to institute no touch icing and all will be right in the hockey world.
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