For Capitals forward Matt Bradley, it is simply a matter of substance over style. He knows his new helmet looks different. But if it helps him avoid a concussion that doesn't really matter. He'll take the abuse.
» Other NHL players using the M11 helmet — Aaron Ward (Carolina), Jesse Winchester and Chris Phillips (Ottawa), Christoph Schubert (Atlanta) and Stephane Veilleux (Tampa Bay).
» Washington (8-3-4, 20 points) begins a home-and-homer series at the Florida Panthers tonight.
» Caps F Alex Ovechkin (upper-body strain) skated at practice in Florida on Thursday. He told reporters he would not play in either of this weekend’s games.
Bradley is one of six NHL players who began the season using a Cascade M11 helmet. It is endorsed by NHL Hall-of-Famer Mark Messier, who started a grassroots project to protect hockey players at all levels from debilitating head injuries by using safer equipment. Part of doing that is convincing NHL players to wear it first. So far, six have chosen to do so.
Bradley's helmet is definitely different -- "I think he's got a CIA transmitter up there," joked teammate Brendan Morrison. It's bigger, of course, with a single-shell bubble design that resembles a motorcycle or ski helmet. That inevitably leads to barbs from opposing players.
"But it's what you have to wear to make things a little safer so I'm willing to deal with [jokes]," Bradley said. "Besides, I have a son coming along. I'd like to be able to talk with him one day."
A representative showed up last season with an initial model. But that one was too bulky. The company modified the helmet, though, and Bradley says this year's version fits the same as any other.
He finally made the leap after a couple of hits during preseason bounced his head off the glass. Bradley just didn't feel fully protected. The new helmets won't eliminate head injuries, of course. Nothing could in such a fast sport.
"Some guys like the way it looks. Most guys don't like the way it looks," said Caps defenseman Brian Pothier. "But I'd rather be safe and productive and be ugly."
Pothier has suffered multiple concussions himself, but doesn't wear the Cascade helmet partly because his head injuries have always come from hits to the jaw or cheek. One from Boston Bruins' bruiser Milan Lucic in 2008 led to vision problems that almost ended Pothier's career. Bradley doesn't push the new helmet on his teammates. But he will answer their questions when asked and that, at least, is a start.
"It's pretty well proven that they're the most protective," Bradley said. "I really don't think it looks that bad. But even if it's not be the best-looking helmet, for me it'll always be a safety thing."