James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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A visor advisory

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

During a break this week, I watched a big chunk of Keanu Reeves’ documentary about old-fashioned versus digital film, titled “Side by Side.”

Beyond noting that the oft-ridiculed “Matrix” star really gestures with his hands a lot when he’s interviewing famous and/or beloved directors, I couldn’t help but get the same feeling that I get when people lament the decline of typewriters, record players, railroads and whatever relics they’re moaning about at the moment. (There’s at least one documentary that covers people who seriously cannot let pinball machines go.)

The thought I had was: “Wow, these people are really stubborn about mostly stupid things.”

Upon further reflection, it’s understandable that they cling to some of these things. (That’s why I wrote mostly stupid.)

Still, the impact is basically the same. People become set in their ways and stubborn, even when there are obvious advancements taking place. Radio had to adapt to movies and television. Editing a piece of cinema is simply easier on a computer. So is running a fantasy hockey league.


Really, when you think about, wearing a helmet without a visor is hockey’s answer to refusing to replace your typewriter with a word processor. Of course, barring a pretty extraordinary amount of bad luck,* refusing to buy an mp3 player in lieu of your phonograph won’t possibly cost you your eyesight or perhaps even your career.

That’s the grim reality that New York Rangers defenseman Marc Staal might be facing. We don’t know yet how bad his grisly-looking eye injury will end up being. Instead, we just shudder at the sight of the video and uncomfortable screen captures.

We also open up the inevitable debates about visors. Proponents of visors are basically the same as people who thought goalies should wear masks, skaters needed to wear helmets and stanchions probably shouldn’t cause grave danger to athletes.

It’s the guys who are stubbornly fighting this who are threatening to go the way of the dodo.


Sadly, the truth is staring them in the face much like the horizontal visor line they’d like to avoid viewing. How, pray tell, can you complain about a visor obstructing your view when visionaries like Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, Alex Ovechkin and [insert almost every world-class player] has learned to adapt to such an encumbrance?

Furthermore, ask all the players whose careers were ended prematurely or flat-out ruined if they’re glad they never wore a visor. While there might be some who are unwilling to admit their mistakes, my guess is that most of a group that includes Steve Yzerman, Al MacInnis and (my saddest example) Bryan Berard would fess up that they should’ve taken whatever precautions they could.


Someday - hopefully soon - the NHL will mandate visors. Maybe they’ll grandfather the changes in so that all rookies are required to wear one while the dinosaurs can roam around with their eyes foolishly endangered like next generation Craig MacTavishes. Even those reckless types should be forced to do so in an ideal world, but in reality, it would be better just to avoid the endless belly-aching from those who wish video games were still like “Pong.”

I look forward to a future where players have visors, protect their necks from stray blades and wear Kevlar socks so they can better avoid Erik Karlsson-type disasters.

Sure, it won’t make hockey a safe sport by any stretch. Yet let me say this: you might go skydiving for the thrill, but you probably also try to avoid splatting on the ground like an idiot if at all possible. Let’s give hockey players as many “parachutes” as possible.

Staal is a very good (maybe great) defenseman, yet his fantasy impact won’t be enormous.** But what if it happens to a big performer in a similar prime-of-his-career spot like Jamie Benn, who I’m fairly certain remains visor-free? It would be a shame, but the biggest shame would be that it could have easily been avoided, like yet another no-seat-belt death.

Hey, some of us like gambling more than others, though. Jump for more from the hockey world.

* - Maybe a scorned lover throwing a typewriter at you?

** - It’s probably bad news in an indirect way for an important guy by the name Henrik Lundqvist, though.

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James O'Brien is the Hockey Daily Dose's author and has been a contributor to NBC's Pro Hockey Talk for more than four years. Follow him on Twitter.
Email :James O'Brien

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