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More Than Meets the Eye

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.

Filed in: | Tasca's Take | Permalink
  Tags: chris+pronger, neck+guards, richard+zednik, visors

Comments

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

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.

And this is exactly what it’s going to take. Personally, I’m still of the ilk that this is something the players should get to decide on and I’ll still be of the ilk that it’s something the players should get to decide on even after it becomes “mandatory.”  Just that when a player does decide to risk himself in such a manner, he should know that he’s risking not only severe facial injury, but also that he’s going to be responsible for the costs of suffering a preventable injury.

Then again, as a fan I don’t really want to see full face shields, but it falls into the same category of preventable injuries.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 10/27/11 at 11:06 AM ET

Nate A's avatar

College hockey is still pretty exciting with full face mask. Neither visors nor full face mask will affect my appreciation for the game.

Posted by Nate A from Detroit-ish on 10/27/11 at 12:35 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

I think I’d eventually get used to full face shields, but there’s something about being able to see their faces clearly which makes it better.  It’s a dumb reason for a guy to put his teeth at risk and it wouldn’t stop me from watching hockey, but it would be an adjustment I’d have to make.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 10/27/11 at 12:48 PM ET

Avatar

Mandatory visors is laughable. Maybe we should make is mandatory to wear completely protective gear unlike what most players use. Some wear barely any body or arm pads and get hurt all the time and yet no one complains about making then wear a tire suit for protection.

Visors fall into the same category as seat belts being mandatory, it should be up to the individual if he or she wants to take the risk. This isn’t a socialist country and we dont need to tell people how we feel is the best way to play the game. If anything gets changed its because of the media making a mountain out of a mole hill.

I love how media folk think their opinion is more important than any other.

Posted by michigan red on 10/27/11 at 01:03 PM ET

mrfluffy's avatar

I love how media folk think their opinion is more important than any other.

I love how you’re comparing a simple piece of plexiglass to a device that saves lives.

Posted by mrfluffy from Long Beach on 10/27/11 at 03:47 PM ET

Avatar

If anything gets changed its because of the media making a mountain out of a mole hill.
I love how media folk think their opinion is more important than any other.

Hmm, sounds like you’re admitting that “media folk” opinion IS more important than others if media folk can get things changed…

Posted by Garth on 10/27/11 at 04:32 PM ET

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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.

Probably because it’s never smart to simply be reactionary.  What happened to Sednik was a freak accident, nothing more.  Jason Blake had his wrist cut by a skate blade this month, do you favour mandatory full-body chainmail for players, just in case something might happen?

I’m not sure I agree with visors being mandatory, but I do think that all players should seriously think about them.  There have been enough people who were anti-visors who have rethought their stance and adopted them that everyone should at least consider it.

Your point on insurance is interesting, but I’d like some numbers to back it up.  Obviously they aren’t charging prohibitively more to insure players without visors or else there would be more of an uproar from the owners and league.  If insurance companies are charging so much more then there wouldn’t even be a debate, it would be a crux of the CBA.

Posted by Garth on 10/27/11 at 04:43 PM ET

NHLJeff's avatar

I feel like people asking why not go all the way with full face shields or asking why visors matter more than other things forget how important eyes are to one’s life. If you lose all o your teeth, life will be tough, but you’ll work it out. If you lose your eyes, your life will be changed forever and you’ll have to learn how to live a completely different lifestyle.

Posted by NHLJeff from Pens fan in Chicago, IL on 10/27/11 at 09:02 PM ET

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I will follow this accountant strategy to make strong business.

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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.