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Mandatory visor rule is overdue

Chris Pronger might have been protected on this play if he was wearing a visor. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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Chris Pronger might have been protected on this play if he was wearing a visor. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

So I’m about as hawkish as anyone in the THN office when it comes to fighting, violence and all those good things, but the visor debate doesn’t really seem like a debate anymore, does it?

The gruesome eye injury to Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger earlier this week provided a terrible yet perfect example of why visors should be mandatory and why the arguments against wearing one simply don’t fly.

I recognize toughness is sometimes questioned when players wear visors and peer pressure on the same topic makes a lot of young NHLers question whether or not they should wear a shield, but here’s the thing: The randomness of flying projectiles in hockey wipes out any correlation with toughness. The world’s strongest man is no match for a sniper rifle and even the biggest, nastiest hockey player – someone such as, say, Chris Pronger – can’t do anything about a puck getting deflected up the shaft of his stick or getting caught by a blade when an opponent follows through on a shot.

But clearly there is still resistance out there. As Montreal’s Travis Moen told the Globe and Mail this week, his enforcing duties with the undersized Canadiens make him pause about the visor issue: “With my role,” Moen said, “it can get in the way.”

But if visors were mandatory, every player who drops the gloves on occasion would be in the same boat. And why should only those who stick up for their teammates be exposed to the cruel physics of random puck deflections, high sticks or even skate blades when a player is upended dramatically by a collision? If you get punched in the face, it’s usually your own fault. A puck to the eye is a much different story.

Yeah, it’s tougher to fight with visors on but heck, since we’re on the subject, let’s get Bauer or Reebok on the job and figure out a solution. Maybe a visor that flips up like Dwayne Wayne’s sunglasses with the push of a button. Tearaway options are out there ­ maybe NHLers would wear those if properly educated on the product – I’m just spitballing here, I’m no design expert.

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The other gripe about visors that never washed with me is how players claim they are uncomfortable wearing them. Particularly for youngsters coming into the league, they all wore visors in junior and if the players came from an NCAA background, they wore full cages or face shields. Now, a lot of NHLers put up huge points when they were teens, which is why they graduated to the Big Show in the first place. If they can do it at that level with a visor or cage on, why can’t they do it in the NHL?

And if you don’t care a lick about the well-being of players these days, be selfish and think about your own enjoyment. Losing the services of a star player because of something totally preventable would be incredibly frustrating for any fanbase, would it not?

As a matter of fact, owners and GMs should be leading the charge for visors, since it’s their fortunes that rest the most on player health. Injuries play havoc on a depth chart, so why blow the chance at a Stanley Cup because of something that can’t be accurately predicted? Because the stakes run from blindness and an end to a player’s career to a missed opportunity for playoff glory, it really doesn’t make sense to hold off on a visor mandate any longer.

Ryan Kennedy is THN's associate senior writer and a regular contributor to THN.com. His column appears Wednesdays and The Hot List appears Tuesdays. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/THNRyanKennedy.

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