Sharks weigh in on NHL visor debate

October 26, 2011, 8:20 pm
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. Granted, hes not the most well liked player in San Jose. Seeing former Ducks defenseman and current Philadelphia Flyer Chris Pronger skate off the ice after a stick to the eye earlier this week, though, was one of those plays that no one ever wants to witness.

The Flyers say Pronger will miss two-to-three weeks, which, with an eye injury, is lucky. It brings up an often-debated question in professional hockey should visors be mandatory?

Some Sharks weighed in on the issue after practice on Wednesday afternoon in Nashville.

PROHOCKEYTALK: Doc tells Pronger "No visor, no play"

I think players have the right to choose, saidDan Boyle. Its a chance youre taking when you dont wear one. I definitely encourage guys to wear them, young guys especially. Theres nothing wrong with wearing them.

When Boyle broke into the league with the Florida Panthers in 1998, he didnt wear one at first. A couple of incidents just a few games apart, however, promptly changed his mind.

I actually got cross-checked in the face, and then three games later I got a slap shot, he said, although he couldnt recall who hit him or which team is was against. I had a temporary visor, and got a slap shot in the visor. Had I not had thatI dont know.

Once I got that shot in the temporary visor, thats when I went to it full time.

Defenseman Colin White has a personal experience when it comes to eye injuries. When he was still with the Devils, White took a puck to the face in practice causing him to miss two months, and still has slight vision impairment.

He now wears a visor for medical reasons, but even after the frightening injury, would rather be without.

If I had my choice Id still have none, he said. Its a comfort thing for the guys who wear them. Thats their choice. Its tough to see out of them, and sweat is always getting on them. I think it still should be a choice of the players.

Ryane Clowe, who doesnt wear one, saw the Pronger incident and was asked if that gave him pause to reconsider.

You know, you flinch and stuff when it happens. Especially a guy in my situation, obviously I fight a little bit and play a rugged game. I dont think a visor is part of my game, said Clowe.

As he mentioned, Clowe plays a more physical game than the average player. When he fights, its not usually predetermined. Rather, he drops the gloves to immediately stick up for teammates. His fights are spur of the moment.

Im not a guy thats going to pick my fights and take off my helmet, he said. If someone runs a guy, Im jumping in. Thats why I dont wear one.

While player safety is obviously the biggest benefit when it comes to visors, there is also the business aspect to consider. After all, when an organization is paying players millions of dollars to compete, the last thing that organization wants is for one of its key investments to have to miss some time or worse.

The Sharks put a guideline in place this year in training camp with their minor league players, according to Todd McLellan.

We had a policy in training camp that the American League players that came into our training camp were going to keep them on until we got to an NHL game, he explained. I would fully recommend that everybody puts them on, but some of the older players have a personal preference. You look at a former teammate like Manny Malhotra such an innocent play can turn into a disaster pretty quick.

Malhotra, of course, was injured last season while playing with the Vancouver Canucks when he was struck in the left eye by an errant puck. There was talk immediately following the injury that Malhotras career could be over, but he returned at the tail end of Vancouvers long Stanley Cup playoff run.

The NHL, to its credit, wants to mandate that every player wear a protective shield. The players association, though, hasnt agreed to it.

NHL spokeman Gary Meagher told Kevin Allen of the USA Today: "The league is in support of making visors mandatory and we have proposed a mandatory rule with grandfathering if players prefer," he said. "But it's not something the players have agreed to do and we aren't willing to move unilaterally in this area without the Players Association agreeing."

Clowe is open to the idea of a gradual implementation.

Im not against maybe grandfathering it in, as people come in. If youve been in the league awhile, you dont have to, he said.

I wouldnt want it to be mandated, but on the other end, its tough to see guys get hit in the eyes.