NHL closer to making visors mandatory

June 5, 2013

Alex Ovechkin is one of 73 percent of NHL players who wore a visor this season. (Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post)

The NHL’s competition committee agreed Tuesday to recommend making visors mandatory for all players entering the league. Players with 26 or more games of NHL experience will still have the option whether to wear the extra equipment, but all others will be required to sport a shield.

The long-awaited consensus is expected to be approved by the NHL Board of Governors and the NHLPA’s Executive Committee so that the mandate can take effect for the 2013-14 season.

Seventy-three percent of players wore visors this season and an NHLPA survey of its membership offered a “clear majority” in support of grandfathering in the mandate according to Mathieu Schneider, a former NHL defenseman and special assistant to NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr.

“I think the biggest thing is that every player coming into the league has previously worn one, and we have 70-plus percent of the guys currently wearing them in the league,” Schneider told reporters in Toronto. “Overall, it’s just been a change in attitude.”

Part of that change has stemmed from high-profile injuries to players like Rangers defenseman Marc Staal, who was struck near his right eye with a deflected puck in early March and has yet to fully regain his normal vision.

Several Capitals weighed in on whether visors should be a requirement shortly after Staal’s injury. While most said they valued having the choice to wear, or not wear, a visor, they anticipated that a rule would be grandfathered in. Visors are mandatory in most European leagues, international competition and have been required in the AHL since 2006.

Of the players who suited up for Washington last season, six do not wear visors — Brooks Laich, Jason Chimera, Matt Hendricks, John Erskine, Steve Oleksy and Aaron Volpatti — and they would all be exempt from the mandate.

Details such as size requirements for visors and alterations to the rule that penalizes players for fighting with a shield still need to be ironed out, but it appears as though the NHL is ready to take this step.

In March, Capitals General Manager George McPhee expressed his support for making visors mandatory.

“I think that the real simple question there is — the players that are in the league can do what they want already — but the people coming in, if this was your son or your daughter and they’re in the league, would you want them to wear a visor?” McPhee said. “And I think the answer is yes. I think they should keep them on.”

There were several other changes the committee recommended as well:

>>Nets will be four inches shallower in order to open up more space for players to maneuver behind it. The dimensions of the opening will remain 6 feet by 4 feet.

>>All four-minute high-sticking calls will be subject to video review.

>>The NHL will test hybrid icing, which has players race to an imaginary line across the faceoff dots, in the preseason. The proponents of hybrid icing hope to eliminate injuries that result from the frantic race for the puck at the goal line, but opponents believe it’s too much of a judgment call.

>>The puck would have to touch a players’ stick in order for an icing to be waived off. Currently, officials can waive off icings if they deem there was an “attainable pass”.

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