With all the hoopla surrounding the whole head-shot ordeal, we have forgotten about that other danger that is constantly present at each and every NHL game. Just like how H1N1 stole all of the thunder from SARS, the visor debate has been swept away for the new flavour of the month issue.
When you give a bunch of testosterone-filled athletes big sticks and sharp steel blades, danger is an obvious consequence. Buried beneath the hysteria surrounding on-ice hits is an argument about eye protection. Are visors necessary, or just a way for wussies to look cool?
Being from Montreal, this debate always reminds me of that day in the spring of 2006 when Saku Koivu took a stick to the eye, dramatically changing the outcome of the playoff series between the Canadiens and Hurricanes. Up 2-0 in the series against the heavily favoured Hurricanes, the Habs were on pace for a dramatic upset until stick met retina and everything changed. The Habs didn’t win another game and were booted from the playoffs while Koivu lay in a hospital bed unsure if his career was over.
Fast forward to four years later and another scary incident revives the visor debate, when Habs forward Travis Moen took an errant skate to the face in a game against Ottawa. It was a scary incident, one that seemed reminiscent of Richard Zednik’s close call as a Panther. Moen was okay, but he won’t be very photogenic for the next bunch of months. The skate blade caught him right above the eyes, putting a nice gash across his forehead to the tune of 50 stitches. Yes, 50 stitches. That is more sewing than a Boy Scout merit badge convention. Though Koivu wore a visor during his incident, Moen went bare-faced, and it is obvious that if he had he been wearing a visor he wouldn’t have that gruesome fissure across his forehead.
So what else will it take to convince players that visors are a good idea? While clowns like Don Cherry are the wrench in the gears working to change this “weakness” mentality aimed at those who wear visors, the evidence supporting their benefits proves otherwise. The myth that visor wearers are less tough, or as Sean Avery put it, “typical of most French guys in our league… running around and playing tough and not back anything up,” is just nonsense. The desire to preserve a career is not something to complain about, but rather encourage.
Of course the argument then arises that visors obscure vision. This again is a pile of crap. Players who make it to the NHL do so after years of peewee, bantam, junior and midget hockey. All of which require facial protection in the form of full cages or plastic shielding. So is taking off the visor really that liberating?
Henrik Sedin, Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Steven Stamkos, Dany Heatley, Brad Richards, Patrick Kane, Marian Gaborik and Ilya Kovalchuk all wear visors, and all are currently averaging over a point a game.
For those still thinking that visors are a nuisance, looking at some of the top players in the league should prove otherwise. Sure Martin St Louis and Joe Thornton go naked, but consider them lucky that they have yet to have a close call. Hey, even Brendan Shanahan changed his attitude after a lengthy career. Visors make sense. Just ask Loui Eriksson, who broke out of a mini scoring drought last month when a tipped pass went off his visor and into the net.
And let’s not forget the fact that they make you look like a futuristic fighter pilot.