by Joe Tasca on 10/27/11 at 09:00 AM ET
To me, there is no visor debate. It’s only a matter of time before visors are mandated in the NHL. The Chris Pronger injury will only expedite the process.
What a lot of people don’t seem to understand is that the visor discussion goes well beyond a player’s personal choice. There will always be hockey players who don’t want to wear shields. For some guys, it’s a macho thing. Others feel visors impede their vision on the ice. That’s all well and good, but the bottom line is that visors will be required very soon, if for nothing else, as a cost-saving measure.
The fact of the matter is that insurance companies charge higher premiums to cover NHL players because many don’t wear visors. As more players suffer eye injuries, those premiums will continue to skyrocket. From a financial standpoint, the NHL and its member teams would be foolish not to make visors mandatory.
While we’re on the subject, I think it’s also worth noting that insurance firms are more than likely playing a starring role in the new head shot protocol, as well. The number of players missing extended periods of time with injuries, head-related and otherwise, has never been higher. Insurance costs have gone up, and the league is reacting predictably.
To me, the visor controversy misses the bigger point when it comes to player safety. Sure, visors protect a player’s eyes, but what about his teeth? Pundits always cite the horrific Bryan Berard injury as a textbook example of why visors should be required, and it’s almost impossible to argue the point. But to me, losing a score of teeth is just as frightening a prospect as a serious eye injury.
I always tell the story about Craig MacDonald, a journeyman minor leaguer who played his only full NHL season in 2007-08 with Tampa Bay. That year, MacDonald took a Hal Gill wrist shot right in the chops, fracturing nine of his teeth. MacDonald underwent extensive oral surgery the next day, including three root canals. He ended up losing six of his chompers.
And what about neck protection? I find it both amusing and shocking that, in the three years since Richard Zednik suffered a severed jugular vein, there’s been virtually no discussion about mandatory neck guards. The debate flared up for a few months after the incident, and has since gone mysteriously silent. For the life of me, I can’t understand why the league is avoiding the issue.
Personally, I’m more worried about a player getting his neck slashed than I am about a nasty eye injury or a severe concussion. While you can reasonably make an argument for and against visors, I don’t think anyone in his right mind would resist the idea of neck protection. It’s a no-brainer. Junior hockey leagues require neck guards, and the pro ranks should follow suit.
When it comes to player safety, the visor debate is a very small piece of the puzzle. When (not if) visors are mandated by the NHL, players will still suffer debilitating facial injuries. That is, of course, unless the league mandates full cages. That’s the only surefire way to solve the problem. It would also pacify the insurance companies.
Obviously, the league isn’t going to go there. At least, not yet.
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About Tasca's Take
Tasca's Take is written by Joe Tasca. Born and raised in Westerly, Rhode Island, Joe works as a broadcaster for seven radio stations in southern New England. Whether that's a testament to his on-air ability or because he has a desparate need for money is debatable.
Joe spends his summers playing golf, enjoying the beauty of Misquamicut Beach, and wining and dining girls who are easily awed by the mere presence of a radio personality. During the winter months, he can usually be found taking in a hockey game somewhere in North America. In the spring, he spends much of his time in botanical gardens tiptoeing through the tulips, while autumn is a time to frolic with his golden retrievers through piles of his neighbors’ leaves.