Watching all the Olympic hockey has me pondering about various rule differences between international competition and the NHL. One of the biggest differences that pops out is visors. Unless you are over the age of 35, visors are mandatory. Chris Pronger is one of the few old guys who is choosing to leave off the visor. Many younger players are now required to put the visor that they used to wear in the AHL back on.
And there is not one single word of complaint about having to do so in order to compete for their country in the Olympics. Not one word.
Suggest that visors become mandatory in the NHL and you might as well be suggesting that they outlaw fighting and all physical contact.
After Anaheim Ducks defensive prospect, Jordan Smith, lost the sight in his left eye due to a fluke puck deflection on February 24, 2006, the AHL responded by making visors mandatory. Smith was happy to endorse that rule change, especially as a visor, in that particular case, would have made the difference in protecting his eyesight and future career.
Not all injuries can be prevented by visors, but a lot of them can. And as Smith can attest, once lost, you cannot get back your eyesight. Is it really worth it not to wear a visor?
More recently Ryan Getzlaf, who took off his visor after leaving the AHL for good, caught a stick to the forehead in the January 19 game against Buffalo. It left a huge gash near his right eye that required him to leave the game to get stitches. Getzlaf returned to the game, but had the stick hit any lower, he could have missed much more time. When questioned about the use of a visor, his response was "you sound like my mother!"
Getzlaf, who is under 35, is wearing a visor while playing for Team Canada in the Olympics. No whining about that visor now and I will bet his mother is a lot happier.
The Hockey News addressed visors in their February 1, 2009, issue, reporting that 59% of players are wearing them. The magazine has been tracking numbers since 1998, when only 15% of players wore visors.
To counter the argument that visors impede your vision on the ice, THN further cites evidence that 29 of the 30 top goal-scorers (at time of printing) wore visors.
It works in international competition. Nothing has been lost in these Olympic games by having players don visors. It works in the AHL. Why not in the NHL as well?
Eventually, one can only hope that common sense prevails and mothers everywhere will be proven right in their safety concerns.
Now will anyone in the NHL deal with head shots in the same way that the IIHF does? An automatic 5 minute major seems to be a good deterrant during the Olympics and guys are much more cautious.
I guess one can only hope for baby steps of progress. Wanting both of those things to change is probably unrealistic. It shouldn't be.