Adam Oates played 19 seasons and never considered wearing a visor. That would be different if he were playing today.
“I would now, yeah,” the Caps’ coach said. “Seventy-five percent of the guys are doing it now. So to me, that means there’s a lot more recklessness because of it.”
While Oates pointed to helmets and visors as one reason why players are more reckless with their sticks, he pointed out that Staal’s injury was just a freak accident. Flyers defenseman Kimmo Timonen let a shot fly that came up and struck Staal above his right eye.
The same can be said for Pronger, or Caps defenseman Tom Poti, who took a puck to the right eye in the 2010 playoffs that required surgery. Or Vancouver Canucks center Manny Malhotra, who resumed his career after an eye injury in March 2011 before being placed on injured reserve last month.
“That’s a thing with one of those unguarded moments. It just happens,” said Chimera, who is good friends with Malhotra. “I think you know the risk it can happen out there. Every time you see something like that, it certainly makes me think twice about it.”
Plenty of players think twice but don’t make the switch, though only five Caps players don’t wear a visor: Hendricks, Chimera, defenseman John Erskine, left wing Aaron Volpatti and forward Brooks Laich. Alzner briefly toyed with the idea of playing without a visor before the 2011-12 season but ultimately decided against it.
“It’s not worth it to me,” the 24-year-old said. “I remember the first couple of years I’d get a new visor every two or three games because I kept getting hit in the face [against] the visor. So I think if I wasn’t wearing a visor I’d look a lot different right now.”
Unlike Kevlar socks, which require moderate adjustment, a visor changes the way a hockey player sees the ice.
“I’ve always liked not having one on,” Chimera said. “You go for so long wearing not one that when you wear one it messes up your sight lines and stuff.”
Still, Chimera, like many other players, deals with plenty of outside influence. His agent, Allan Walsh, posted on Twitter that while he encourages his clients to wear visors, he believes it’s a choice they should have.
“I’ve thought about it, for sure,” Chimera said. “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.”
Having visors grandfathered in so that current players have the choice while those entering the league must wear one seems to be the most logical answer. That would solve the “stubbornness” but also ensure, like with helmets, a generation from now every NHL player has that protection.
“When you haven’t played with a visor for 12 or 15 years, it’s tough to put one on,” Alzner said. “It’s not a big difference, but it is a bit of a difference so I think that guys should still have the choice. Just make the right choice.”