It is a decision every NHL player is free to make, and the majority of them want to keep it that way. According to the NHL Players' Association, a majority of its membership is against the idea of making visors on helmets mandatory.
There is no question that visors can prevent catastrophic eye and face injuries. Just this week New York Rangers defenseman Marc Staal, who doesn't wear a visor, took a puck to the right eye. He is now out indefinitely. And yet despite 73 percent of NHL players wearing visors, players prefer to have the option.
"I've thought about it, for sure," said Capitals forward Jason Chimera, one of only four players on the team who doesn't wear a visor. "Your mom's always pressing you. Your wife's always pressing you. But it's one of those things that maybe a little stubbornness comes in. When you see stuff like that, though, it certainly makes me think twice about it."
And that's because visors can affect players' sight lines. They have to weigh the benefits of that with the very real risk of serious injury. Staal's recent scare again pushed the issue to the forefront. Another case Chimera knows well is his good friend Manny Malhotra, who plays for Vancouver. He suffered a serious left eye injury March 16, 2011, in a game against Columbus.
For a time doctors thought Malhotra's sight was in jeopardy. But he returned later that season to play in the Stanley Cup finals with the Canucks. Ultimately, however, even after playing all last season, Malhotra's vision on the ice had been compromised. He appeared in nine games this year before Vancouver placed him on injured reserve. It is unclear whether he will play again.
"I still think guys should have the choice. If they're willing to take the risk, then they've got to deal with it if they do get hurt," said Washington defenseman Karl Alzner, who toyed with dropping the visor before last season but ultimately decided to keep it. "You've got to let guys have a little bit of freedom."
- Brian McNally