Marc Staal’s injury was the latest in a string of scary incidents involving players who declined to wear visors. (Frank Franklin II/AP)
By Allan Muir
It sounds like the NHLPA is coming around on the idea of mandatory visors. Well, maybe.
Mathieu Schneider, the special assistant to PA executive director Don Fehr, was quoted today as saying, “We’re definitely going to look at talking to the guys about grandfathering them in.”
On the commitment scale, that comes a lot closer to “we’ll take it under advisement” than “had it, stamped it, no erasing,” but it’s a step in the right direction for a group that stubbornly opposed the concept as recently as two weeks ago, even after Rangers’ defenseman Marc Staal was nearly blinded after taking a slap shot directly above the eye.
There’s no timetable for action, but Schneider said there could be “some type of poll” in the future.
A similar poll conducted four years ago saw the players overwhelmingly reject the concept, but times are changing. Between 70 and 75 percent of players wear shields on any given night, a higher number than any time in history, and players coming in from every other league have already worn some kind of facial protection. If forcing current PA members to don a shield is out of the question, asking the next generation to keep one on at least moves us closer to a time when common sense is embraced over comfort.
The key to the vote will be in the presentation. Chris Pronger recently said that he supported the concept of mandatory visors, but would oppose it becoming law because he saw it as being something that was being pushed unilaterally by the league and accepting it would set a bad precedent.
Getting past that mistrust, and the long-standing internal resistance to mandatory visors, won’t be easy. But someone within the PA–I’d guess Fehr himself–has chipped away at that log jam. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.