The debate over making visors mandatory in the NHL seems something of an annual occurrence. Last Monday, when Philadelphia’s Chris Pronger suffered a scary eye injury when he was inadvertently hit in the face with a stick, the discussion sparked again.
Pronger managed to avoid serious injury when the stick of Toronto’s Mikhail Grabovski struck outside his right eye and could be back in the Flyers’ lineup in two to three weeks. The Flyers’ eye doctor has stated that he will not clear Pronger to play unless the veteran defenseman agrees to wear a visor. The Philadelphia captain is expected to comply with the demand.
The addition of a rule that makes visors mandatory seems simple enough on the surface, but players who have elected to go without the extra eye protection would rather not be forced to.
Brooks Laich is one of several Capitals – including Mike Knuble, Jason Chimera, Matt Hendricks, Dennis Wideman, John Erskine, D.J. King and Roman Hamrlik – who doesn’t wear a visor, and he had some thoughtful comments about this latest round of the debate.
“I think eventually visors will be mandatory for players coming into the league,” said Laich, who is Washington’s NHLPA representative. “If they do institute that rule I’d like to be grandfathered where [those already in the NHL] have a choice. I almost wish I wore a visor because incidents that can happen. Last night, you take the ear and maybe that’s two inches and it’s in your eye.”
In just the last three games, Laich was hit by a puck on his right ear in Edmonton and was was cut twice by a pair of high-sticks against Philadelphia. He only wound up with small cuts each times, but he knows the possibility of greater harm exists.
Laich said that he believes within 10 years, possibly within five, that visors will be mandatory in the NHL, like they are in the Canadian Hockey League and American Hockey League. The 28-year-old wore a visor his first year in the NHL, but since removing it he hasn’t thought seriously about putting it back on his helmet.
Not even seeing teammate Tom Poti suffer a gruesome eye injury after being hit by a puck in the 2010 playoffs or observing the other injuries around the league has given Laich pause.
“I don’t want to say it would take a serious eye injury, but sometimes you don’t learn until something happens to you. Like a seat-belt sort of thing,” Laich said when asked if he’s thought about wearing a visor again. “I like the freedom of not having any obstruction around my eyes, but knock on wood, you just continue to be lucky and nothing happens.”