Friday, October 07, 2005

Visors

The new NHL was supposed to be better than before. The old problems were supposed to be solved right?

Not so fast. The Toronto Maple Leafs have played only one game and the tired issue of visors has come back. In Toronto's 3-2 shootout loss to Ottawa, Mats Sundin was hit by a puck in the face and it broke his left orbital bone (surrounding his eye). Sundin will be out for 4 to 6 weeks (and possibly longer should they detirmine it requires surgery). This is hardly the first time a Toronto player has suffered a serious eye injury. In 2000, Bryan Berard nearly lost his eye. He missed over a season recovering and his career appeared to be in jeopardy. This isn't even the first time Sundin has had an injury in his eye area. Owen Nolan and Darcy Tucker have both also had close calls with their eyes. Every team has a list of a few players who have had injuries in their eye area. How many times does it have to happen before the NHL says enough is enough? How many times does it have to happen before the players decide enough is enough?

The NHL has made several changes since the last time they played hockey. There now is a salary cap, shootouts, escrow etc. During the long CBA negotiation, the issue of visors never even came up. If the owners thought that there was money to be made in manditory visors we would have them. The NHLPA eventually gave in to all the owner demands in the negotiations. If the NHL demanded visors there would be visors.

The players don't seem to want visors either. Mostly its an outdated idea that is ingrained in the psyche of NHL players. Anyone who wears a visor is a chicken. A few days ago, Sean Avery said:

I think it was typical of most French guys in our league with a visor on, running around and playing tough and not back anything up.

He was referring to Denis Gauthier who hit his teammate in a pre-season game Jeremy Roenick resulting in a concussion. Notice how he sees wearing a visor as being a sign a player is a "chicken".

The NHL sees players as a disposable resource in the new CBA. If the players get injured they can be discarded for new healthy players. The players are too "macho" to wear anymore protective equipment then is mandated.

The NHL should grandfather in visors, in the same way they did helmuts. Every player who is drafted in the future would have to wear a visor. In a few years, everyone would have visors. How many more eye injuries will it take?

TSN's story on Sundin's issue is titled Sundin considers visor full time. Thats right, he is thinking about it. Two eye injuries isn't enough for him to decide he definitely needs to wear a visor.

NOTE: Bruce Garrioch reports that the NHLPA will vote on Tuesday about whether or not it supports making visors manditory.

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