Monday, April 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Staal injury heats up NHL visor debate

For Lightning forward Adam Hall, the debate over whether NHL players should be required to wear visors comes to down to this:

"Do players who have made that choice to wear one, do they take that choice out of other players' hands?"

The visor question hit its yearly crescendo last week when Rangers defenseman Marc Staal was hit in the right eye by a deflected slap shot from Philadelphia's Kimmo Timonen.

It was a horrific scene, with Staal writhing on the ice and skating off with his hands covered in blood.

To an outsider, it is counter-intuitive that after witnessing such a moment, every player who does not wear a visor, like Staal, did not immediately snap one on. But the players association has steadfastly refused to make visors mandatory. Why?

They can obstruct vision, especially when fogged. Former tough guy Jody Shelley once told the Philadelphia Inquirer he did not wear one to maintain "ease of fighting," and Penguins tough guy Tanner Glass once told Canada's National Post that "only soft guys" wear visors.

But for Hall, the Lightning's representative to the players association who also goes without a visor, the issue is more nuanced. Let's say visors are mandatory, Hall said, but as when helmets were mandated, players already in the league retained the choice.

"With some players who don't wear visors, the argument has been made that it's tough for them to be hypocritical and say, 'Yes, mandatory for all players, but I'm not going to wear one,' " Hall said. "I think it's difficult for some players to consider it that way."

Lightning GM Steve Yzerman did not wear a visor until the final season of his 22-year career, and only because of a serious eye injury sustained the season before. "It took me 20-something years to figure out I probably should wear a visor," he said.

And as a general manager, he said, he supports making them mandatory, as they are in the minor and junior leagues. Until that happens, it is inevitable there will be more incidents such as Staal's. Luckily, he is expected to make a full recovery.

"At times in my career I've tried putting one on, but I made a personal choice where I was more used to not wearing one," Hall said. "I find it difficult to look at the younger players and say, 'Do as I say, not as I do.' "

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