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(Jonathan Hayward)
(Jonathan Hayward)

Should visors be mandatory in the NHL? Add to ...

Eric Duhatschek makes some fine points, as usual, in taking up the visor debate but I'm afraid he is wasting his energy, as is everyone else. Nothing is going to change as long as most of the NHL's players are not interested in safety. Manny Malholtra is simply the latest player to discover the price of that thinking. As evidence, rather than hammer away at the keyboard to produce 700 words of outrage over this, all I had to do was go to the archives. I wrote the following column on Jan. 23, 2004. Nothing has changed since then except the names of the players. It could run in tomorrow's newspaper and that is not because I consider myself a visionary. D.S.

Jan. 23, 2004

Visor use remains in the eye of a continuing NHL storm

DAVID SHOALTS

So here we are again, surrounded by the debate over visors for the second time this month thanks to yet another Toronto Maple Leafs player who almost lost an eye.

Once again, the experts are quoting statistics relating the use of visors to eye injuries - no National Hockey League player who wears a visor has ever suffered serious eye damage.

Once again, the newspapers and airwaves are full of earnest articles and discussions about how wearing visors should be mandatory in the NHL. And once again, people are wasting their breath.

It is a colossal waste of time for anyone to spend so much as a nanosecond worrying about NHL players and their eyes. If the players do not care, why should we be concerned about 700 well-paid individuals who are well aware of the risks they take every time they step on the ice without the proper safety equipment?

This is not a public-safety issue. The public is not at risk, just a small group of willful boneheads, 65 per cent of those 700 players. No matter how abominably the local side is playing, neither you nor I can walk into an NHL arena and get a job on the team. That is why governments have not forced any common sense on the NHL.

For the past 25 years, thanks to Hockey Canada, our children have had to wear full face protection from the time they enter the minor-hockey system right through to the major-junior ranks. In this case, at least, the actions of the NHL players will not have an effect on the public.

The stupidity here is nothing short of astounding.

These guys spend tens of thousands of dollars on personal trainers to get in the best physical condition possible in order to extend their careers and collect those million-dollar salaries for as long as they can. Yet they will not spend less than $100 to protect something vital to their careers, something that could be lost in, yes, the blink of an eye.

What's surprising is that there are not more cases like Bryan Berard, who lost the sight in an eye while playing for the Maple Leafs four years ago. These players are as lucky as they are stupid.

The number of close calls is staggering. Walk into any NHL dressing room on any given day and you will see at least two players with stitches around their eyes.

Even one of the safety advocates, Dr. Rob Devenyi, the optical surgeon who put the retinas of Owen Nolan and Darcy Tucker back together this month, realizes he's wasting his time when it comes to telling NHL players to wear visors.

"It's not ignorance," Dr. Devenyi said yesterday. "They know the risks. They know what will protect them, but they don't give a damn."

The reason they don't is not a safety issue, it's a cultural issue. Players who wear visors are considered sissies by a sizable portion of the NHL community.

Remember, this is a league in which Jacques Plante had to endure hearing even his own coach question his courage when he decided it made sense for goaltenders to wear a mask. Think how ridiculous that sounds more than 40 years later.

But the same thing happened in 1979 when the NHL finally made helmets compulsory. We are not talking about great thinkers here.

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