Flyers fans are no strangers to injury. In the 2009-2010 season Ian Laperriere took a puck to the face while blocking a shot in a playoff game against the New Jersey Devils. Laperriere was listed as out indefinitely and wasn’t expected to return for the rest of the playoff run. He did, however, surprise everyone by returning for game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Montreal Canadiens. In September 2010, during training camp, Laperriere experienced symptoms of post-concussion syndrome with subsequent nerve damage to his eyes from being hit in the face twice by pucks in the previous season. He was announced as out for the entire 2010-11 season just before the season began. He was put on injured reserve to free up salary cap space and he was advised to retire.
Last season, in ’11-’12, Captain and veteran defenseman Chris Pronger took a follow-through from a Mikhail Grabovski stick to the face that resulted in long term post-concussion symptoms. His symptoms were originally mistaken as a mystery virus and he was told that he displayed “flu like symptoms” in early December of 2011. The Flyers organization and fans desperately gripped at the hope of Pronger making a full recovery and returning for the ’12-’12 season, but alas, none of their prayers were answered and Pronger is expected to retire sometime in the near future.
So, what do both of these cases have in common with eachother? Neither player was wearing a visor. Pronger and Laperriere are only recent and Philadelphia exclusive examples of the danger that players face by not wearing protective visors.
In Tuesday’s game against the New York Rangers, a slap shot from Kimmo Timonen redirected off a players stick and hit Marc Staal in the right eye, as seen in the image following this text.
Staal was immediately rushed off the ice and didn’t return to the game. His injury, however, isn’t career threatening according to a tweet by Nick Kypreos. This Injury has re-sparked the debate as to whether the NHL should make protective visors mandatory or not. Currently, it is a players choice to wear a visor or not as the NHLPA favors keeping players choice. The NHL, however, has continually been supportive of a rule mandating visor use:
“…in fairness, the use of visors has continued to increase at a significant pace over the last several years so, I’m not sure a single incident will materially change or impact the ongoing discussion or approach.” NHL Deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPNNewYork.com
According to NHLPA-gathered statistics, visor use among NHL players continues to increase. Approximately 73 percent of players are wearing visors this season, up from 69 percent in 2011-12. This increase in players choosing to wear a visor is most likely younger players who are looking around the league and recognizing the injuries that are happening to players who don’t wear them.
The players who choose not to wear a visor are likely veterans or rookie players. As a veteran, a player has become used to the way they play and the unaffected vision they can play with. Adding a visor after so many years could negatively affect how well they play. Rookies after coming out of a long history of mandatory cages want to feel the freedom that comes from not wearing any protective cover, not realizing the danger they are putting themselves in. Despite multiple examples around the league and constant league information and warning, players still choose to play at their own risk.
The visor debate is reminiscent of the Helmet rules in 1979 when helmets were made mandatory for all new players, while veteran players were given the choice of donning a helmet or not. Helmets were considered controversial in the league when Art Ross redesigned Barney Stanley’s helmet prototype. In the 1930s, the Toronto Maple Leaf players were ordered to add helmets to their equipment. A few minutes into the first game with the new helmets, King Clancy flung his helmet off. The fans, media, and other players berated players who did wear helmets. Players were considered weak or cowardly if they wore a helmet and that stigma only started to change after the death of Bill Masterton. Masterson, hit by 2 Seals players, tragically smacked his head hard on the ice and was worked on for 30 hours while doctors attempted to save his life. Sadly, their efforts were fruitless. By the time Helmets became mandatory in the league, 70% of players had already started wearing them.
So, is the visor debate the NEW helmet issue and does that mean that it will take a drastic event or injury to happen for the rules to change and a visor rule to be implemented?
Do you feel visors should be made mandatory or should players have the final say and “play at their own risk”?
Video from PennNova24 YouTube.