Ice hockey is known for its fast pace and physical gameplay. NHL players are considered to be the best in the world, with fans following their every move both on and off the ice. One question that often comes up is whether or not NHL players have to wear a visor during games.
A visor is a clear piece of plastic that attaches to a player’s helmet, protecting their face from sticks, pucks, and other potential hazards. While it may seem like a no-brainer to wear one, the decision ultimately comes down to personal preference.
“I think everyone has to make the decision for themselves,” said Nashville Predators forward Austin Watson. “You’re taking a risk every time you step on the ice.”
In fact, until recently, wearing a visor was optional for any player who entered the league prior to June 1, 2013. Now, all new players are required to wear one, but veteran players can still choose to go without.
The choice to wear a visor can have serious consequences, as former NHL player Bryan Berard found out firsthand when he was hit in the eye by a stick during a game. He suffered a career-ending injury and lost nearly all vision in his right eye.
Whether or not NHL players should wear a visor remains a topic of debate among fans and players alike. To find out more about this essential piece of equipment and how it affects players’ performance on the ice, keep reading.
The NHL’s Visor Rule
When it comes to safety in sports, particularly ice hockey, protective gear is essential for preventing injuries. The National Hockey League (NHL) has been working on ways to improve player safety and reduce the risk of serious injuries during games.
What is the NHL’s Visor Rule?
The NHL’s visor rule requires players who enter the league after a certain date, as well as all minor league players, to wear a visor on their helmets at all times while playing in games. However, veteran players who have not previously worn a visor may continue to play without one if they choose.
This mandatory rule was put into place to decrease the number of facial and eye injuries that occur from pucks or sticks hitting a player in the face. While there are still other areas that need improvement, this step taken by the NHL has helped significantly reduce these types of injuries.
When was the Visor Rule Implemented?
The NHL implemented the visor rule in 2013 for all incoming players. This means anyone who made his NHL debut after March 31, 2013, would be required to wear a visor at all times during games. There was some pushback from veteran players who had played their whole career without wearing a visor, but ultimately, the reduction in facial and eye injuries spoke volumes about the effectiveness of the new rule.
How Has the Visor Rule Changed the Game?
The visor rule has resulted in reducing the amount of facial and eye injuries suffered by players. In addition, many believe that it has also contributed to an increase in skill among players. With less worry about getting hit in the face with a puck or stick, players have greater confidence to make plays and can better focus on the game at hand.
Despite these clear benefits, some players still choose not to wear a visor. These veteran players are used to playing without one and may find it distracting or uncomfortable. However, with more extensive research being done on sports-related concussions and head trauma, helmet technology has also improved, making the use of visors even more necessary for player safety.
“Players who refuse to use facial protection: I compare it to someone driving without a seatbelt…We ask our guys all the time, ‘How good would you be if you had one eye?’ You have it for life.” -Mike Babcock
Coaches often play an important role in encouraging their players to prioritize safety. In fact, many coaches now require all their players to wear full protective gear, including visors, during practices as well as games.
- The NHL’s Visor Rule was implemented in 2013.
- All incoming players to the league are required to wear a visor on their helmets.
- Veteran players can continue to play without a visor if they choose.
- The rule has led to a decrease in facial and eye injuries suffered by players.
- Some veterans still oppose wearing a visor but coaches encourage its use.
The NHL’s visor rule is an excellent example of how sports leagues can take proactive steps to enhance player safety. While there will always be obstacles to overcome when it comes to preventing injuries, advancements in technology and increased awareness about injury prevention mean that players today have access to greater resources than ever before.
Arguments for and Against Visors in the NHL
Safety Benefits of Wearing a Visor
The use of visors has been one of the most discussed topics of safety in the NHL. One major argument for wearing visors is that they can help reduce eye injuries among players. According to a study conducted by University of Missouri researchers, an average of 10 percent of all player injuries are caused by high-stick incidents. Of those injuries, over half were eye-related and could have potentially been prevented with the use of proper equipment like visors.
Visors not only protect against sticks but also pucks and other flying objects which can cause serious injury. Detroit Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg shared his harrowing experience of losing sight in his left eye due to being hit by an errant puck. He now wears a full shield, admitting it took some time for him to adjust to the difference in vision. Zetterberg stated during a 2015 interview with Sports Illustrated, “I’m sure it’s safer to wear than just the cage; you get more coverage.”
Player Preference and Personal Choice
While there are valid arguments supporting a mandatory visor rule, many players argue the decision should be left up to individual choice. It’s inevitable that players as athletes prioritize their own performance and comfort on the ice – playing without a visor can provide better visibility and reduced fogging during gameplay.
However automatic adoption across the board is unlikely anytime soon, even if implemented over a long timeline since grandfathering rules may allow current players to avoid them, seen when helmets evolved in the early 70s. The idea of impacting veterans who fought limiting helmet use at first could present challenges implementing universal usage protocols around facial protection.
Impact on Performance and Play
Opponents of visors argue that the mandatory use of protective gear may impact player performance and play. It’s been argued that players with visors have decreased vision, restricted airflow, and less hearing- which could affect a player’s awareness and reaction time on the ice.
Even though there is no concrete evidence to support this argument, many star players still resist wearing them out of fear it might affect their game negatively – especially at higher skill levels where split second reactions mark the difference between success and failure.
“At the NHL level, sometimes you don’t even like having a helmet on because it keeps blocking your view,” said Florida Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle during a 2016 interview with the Toronto Sun.
The debate regarding whether or not NHL players need to wear visors will continue for the foreseeable future. Only time can tell if visors will ever become a mandatory piece of equipment in professional hockey. Until then, the decision to sport one rests solely on individual preference, personal choice, and safety concerns.
Visor Usage Among NHL Players
The National Hockey League (NHL) imposes strict rules on players’ equipment, including the use of visors. But do NHL players have to wear a visor?
Percentage of NHL Players Who Wear Visors
According to a survey conducted by the NHL Players’ Association in 2019, 84.7% of NHL players wore a visor during the 2018-2019 season. This percentage has steadily increased over the years, with only 28% of players wearing visors during the 2006-2007 season.
Notably, some teams have higher rates of visor usage than others. For example, all players on the Toronto Maple Leafs and Vancouver Canucks wore visors during the 2018-2019 season, while just over half of players on the Anaheim Ducks and St. Louis Blues did so.
Reasons Why Some Players Choose Not to Wear Visors
Despite the majority of NHL players wearing visors, some still choose not to for various reasons. In fact, the same NHLPA survey found that 15.3% of players did not wear a visor at all during the 2018-2019 season.
One reason why some players opt to go without a visor is simply personal preference. They feel more comfortable playing without one or believe it may impede their vision on the ice. However, this argument is less common as newer designs provide better protection while maintaining excellent visibility.
Other players cite a desire for toughness as a reason to play without a visor. They prefer to show off scars from facial injuries sustained on the ice as a badge of honor. One such player was former NHL forward Brendan Shanahan, who famously chose to play without a visor throughout his career and retired with over 1300 points. In an interview, Shanahan stated, “I’m not saying that everybody has to be like me, but if you want to be tough in hockey, there’s still one way.”
“I’m not saying that everybody has to be like me, but if you want to be tough in hockey, there’s still one way.” – Brendan Shanahan
Research indicates that wearing a visor is not just about protecting players from cuts and bruises; it can prevent more serious head injuries as well. According to The Guardian, studies suggest the use of visors reduces the risk of concussions by up to 67% in some cases.
In fact, the NHL made visors mandatory for all new players entering the league in 2013 after a series of devastating eye injuries. This decision was supported by the vast majority of NHLPA members at the time, who recognized the importance of player safety on the ice.
While visor usage remains a personal choice for many NHL players, evidence suggests that wearing one provides critical protection from serious injury. As the dangers of traumatic brain injuries continue to come to light in professional sports, enforcing uniform protective gear will likely become increasingly important for the future of the sport.
The Benefits of Wearing a Visor
Protection Against Eye Injuries
Eye injuries are common in ice hockey, and wearing a visor can significantly reduce the risk of serious eye damage. Players without a visor are at higher risk for getting hit by flying pucks or sticks which could cause permanent vision loss. This is why many professional leagues have mandated that players wear some type of facial protection, including visors.
In fact, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, NHL players who wore full shields had more than three times fewer eye injuries over a 10-year period than those who did not wear any face protection. Additionally, players who were injured but were wearing a visor experienced less severe eye injuries compared to unprotected players
“Eye injuries remain an important issue with high impact on long-term visual outcome in ice hockey” -Dr. Joseph Lin
Improved Vision on the Ice
Wearing a visor can also improve visibility while playing. It helps players to focus better on the puck and their surroundings, leading to better performance. Because a visor made from high-quality material will withstand scratches and resist fogging, it keeps vision clear during fast-paced play.
Moreover, many players argue that using a visor does not affect their peripheral view much; instead, they feel like their vision is clearer since they do not need to tilt their head as often to avoid glare and distortion on the ice. That said, as each player has their preference regarding equipment such as helmets and visors among others, the NHL has left its choice up to the individual players.
Wearing a visor does indeed offer benefits that could make a difference between proper performance and an injury-prone season. From protecting the eyes and face from critical injuries to helping players focus on the puck with clear and unobstructed vision, visors are essential gear for hockey players.
Top NHL Players Who Wear Visors
When it comes to playing ice hockey, safety is a crucial element. However, some players believe that helmets with visors can limit their vision and thus affect their performance on the ice. Despite this, many NHL players opt for helmets with visors as an added protective measure.
McDavid is currently one of the most elite players in the NHL, and he’s known for wearing a helmet with a visor during games. The Canadian centre has stated several times that he wears a visor because “anything could happen” on the ice. In 2017, he even left a game due to a concussion sustained after falling headfirst into the boards. He now realizes the importance of wearing proper protective equipment, including his helmet with a visor.
Tavares was initially hesitant about wearing a visor before being drafted to the NHL but soon started using one due to league regulations. The New York Islanders’ captain acknowledges that there are instances when fighting poses a legitimate threat, but the benefits of wearing personal protective gear far outweigh any drawbacks. His opponents are aware of the danger involved in bare-faced body checking, making them more inclined to wear protective equipment themselves.
The Tampa Bay Lightning’s Steven Stamkos used to play without a visor but began wearing one after suffering a severe injury during a game in November 2013. A puck deflected off his own stick and hit him directly in the face, requiring surgery and months of recovery time. After returning from the injury, he decided to wear a full shield (visor) instead of a partial one to ensure maximum protection in the future. Since then, he has continued to wear a visor throughout his career.
While the NHL doesn’t require players to wear helmets with visors, many hockey enthusiasts and experts believe they offer significant protection from serious injuries. As seen above, some of the league’s top players opt to wear visors for this reason.
“I think pucks come off sticks so quickly now, sticks break, it is just an extra layer of protection that can potentially prevent you from getting hurt.” – Connor McDavid
All in all, although it’s not mandatory to wear visors in the NHL, it’s highly recommended by the league itself and many professionals. It shouldn’t take a severe injury like Stamkos’ or a concussion like McDavid’s to convince someone to protect themselves while playing such a physically demanding sport. Personal safety should always be a top priority – even when it comes to a game on ice.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are NHL players required to wear a visor?
Yes, all NHL players are required to wear a visor on their helmet as of the 2013-2014 season. Prior to this, visors were optional for players with experience in the league.
What are the consequences for not wearing a visor in the NHL?
Players who do not wear a visor in the NHL are subject to a minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. If a player removes their visor during a game, they may receive a double minor penalty.
When was the visor rule implemented in the NHL?
The visor rule was implemented in the NHL prior to the 2013-2014 season. The rule requires all players, regardless of experience level, to wear a visor attached to their helmet while on the ice.
Can NHL players choose to not wear a visor if they have a medical exemption?
Yes, NHL players may be granted a medical exemption from wearing a visor if they have a documented medical condition, such as an eye injury. The exemption must be approved by the league and the player’s team.
Do all players in the NHL wear a visor or are there exceptions?
All players in the NHL are required to wear a visor as of the 2013-2014 season. However, players who entered the league prior to this season may choose not to wear a visor if they sign a waiver acknowledging the risks involved.