Before New York Rangers defenseman Marc Staal could even be helped off the ice after being struck in the eye with a puck on March 5, the debate was already raging. Should the NHL mandate all of its players wear protective visors?
That debate will take a more official turn on Tuesday, when the NHL's competition committee, made up of team administrators and players, meets in Toronto.
The committee will discuss other rules, equipment regulations and scheduling concerns. But with Staal's injury still fresh in everyone's mind, the visor debate might take center stage.
The committee can only make recommendations for changes, but those recommendations will obviously carry a lot of weight when the league considers altering its rules.
Among the team officials involved in the discussions on Tuesday are reportedly Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider, Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman, Nashville general manager David Poile, Detroit general manager Ken Holland and Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle. The players will include David Backes, Cory Schneider, Michael Cammalleri, Ron Hainsey and Alex Pietrangelo. Mathieu Schneider of the NHLPA will chair the meeting.
The NHLPA has been polling its membership on this topic since not long after Staal's injury, and their findings will be shared with the players on the committee.
According to Elliotte Friedman of CBC (via Puck Daddy), there is a large number of players that appears to be in favor of “grandfathering” a new rule, where players coming into the league would have to wear visors while current players would not if they choose not to.
Staal has said he would vote for a mandatory visor rule without a grandfather clause after what happened to him.
Grandfathering, however, appears to be the most likely scenario going forward, especially since general managers have already confirmed support of such a rule. That might not be good enough to appease Staal or a large public opinion that NHL players should be forced to protect their eyes.
There's a significant enough number of players playing without visors that do so for the sake of comfort or preference that would not like their choice taken away. Grandfathering would be a good middle ground, though there is no guarantee it has enough support to become the new law of the land on visors.
Most young players are already wearing visors, anyway. Visors are required at the American Hockey League and junior levels and in most European leagues.
Additionally in the wake of Staal's injury, more players might choose to put on visors, which is just plain smart.
Over time, the percentage of players playing without visors is bound to decrease dramatically. Ensuring the young stars entering the league are asked only to continue protecting themselves the way that they were required to in previous leagues is a good thing.
If the league isn't going to make it a sweeping mandate, grandfathering looks like the best middle ground and one that will at the very least protect the next generation of players.