Mandatory Visor Rule Coming for NHL.

As a growing number of NHL players adopt visors, expect this protective piece of equipment to become mandatory in the league in the near future.

Only a matter of time until visors become mandatory in NHL.

The recent eye injury suffered by Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger has brought the issue of a mandatory visor rule for NHL players to the forefront once again.

This debate has been overshadowed in recent years by other player safety issues (concussions,  crackdown upon head shots, hitting from behind, and no-touch icing), but it has been around for a number of years.

Calls for mandatory visors in the NHL stepped up significant following March 11, 2000, when then-Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Bryan Berard was clipped in the eye by then-Ottawa Senators forward Marian Hossa’s stick as the latter was following through on an attempted shot.

It was a gruesome injury, as Berard was writhing face-down on the ice, blood pooling beneath his face. Fortunately, doctors were able to save his eye, but he lost 75 percent of the vision in it. He missed the entire 2000-01 season, and would play a few more seasons with five other NHL teams, but his limited vision hampered his defensive game, and became a factor in his premature retirement.

Late last season, Vancouver Canucks center Manny Malhotra was struck in the eye by the puck during a March game against the Colorado Avalanche. He underwent two eye surgeries, missed the remainder of the regular season and most of the playoffs. Fortunately, Malhotra made a full recovery and continues to play with the Canucks, though now he wears a visor.

USA Today reported more than 60 percent of NHL players this season wear visors, including superstars Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, the Sedin Twins, Corey Perry, Steven Stamkos, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Ryan Kesler and Jarome Iginla.

James Mirtle of The Globe and Mail reported that number is a significant increase from ten years ago, when only 39 percent of player wore them.

For years, many “traditionalists” within the game considered those who wore visors to be “weak”, questioning their toughness and machismo.

Hockey Night in Canada’s Don Cherry has been amongst the most vocal critics of visors. In 2004, Cherry claimed “most of the guys who wear them are European or French guys”, comments meant to demean those who wore them, while praising those who refuse to as “tough guys”.

But it appears attitudes toward visors may be changing within the NHL community.

Mirtle reported Flyers GM Paul Holmgren said Pronger would be wearing a visor when he returns to action, while Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke joined Holmgren in calling for visors to become mandatory in the NHL as soon as possible.

As noted in Mirtle’s article, the turning point for Burke occurred in 2006, when as GM of the Anaheim Ducks, prospect Jordan Smith lost an eye when struck by a puck, an incident so horrific to those who witnessed it that it haunts them to this day.

Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman, who as Mirtle noted suffered a career-threatening eye injury during his career, has encouraged his Lightning players to adopt visors.

Despite the Pronger injury, it’s unlikely a visor rule will be implemented this season.

The NHL cannot legally enforce such a rule, as sports law blogger Eric Macramalla explains:

Making visors mandatory is something that is collectively bargained with the players. So that means it’s something the NHL and the NHLPA need to agree on”.

It’s not as though the league hasn’t raised the issue in the past. Several times over the past ten years, the league has tried to convince the NHLPA to consider the adoption of a mandatory visor rule, but the PA has insisted that should remain up to the players.

In the aftermath of the Pronger injury, with the onus in recent years upon improving player safety, and the increasing number of players wearing visors, a number that now includes many of the league’s best players, the introduction of a visor rule appears only a matter of time for the NHL.

Most likely, it’ll be part of the next round of collective bargaining, slated to begin early next year.

Odds are, like the introduction of the mandatory helmet rule over thirty years ago, it’ll be “grandfathered in” the next CBA, meaning as of the date of the agreement’s implementation, those who played in the NHL under the previous CBA will have the choice of wearing one, while it’ll become mandatory henceforth for new players.


  1. I really could care less who wears a visor… But I have issues with the whole spirit behind making it mandatory. It’s mostly created by the media who thinks they know better than the players.

    Stupidity and control rule the day in the NHL as in much of the world unfortunately.

  2. Tom: When did Brian Burke, Paul Holmgren and Steve Yzerman become part of the media? Are you honestly suggesting the fact the number of players wearing visors has jumped by well over twenty percent in the past decade is media-driven? I’d say those aforementioned GMs and the rising number of players wearing visors (now well over 60 percent, and continuing to rise) suggests they do know better, wouldn’t you?

  3. While I don’t like that this has come to pass because of a Pronger injury for all sorts of unjustifiable reasons, it’s probably a healthy idea. I just wonder about how it’ll affect the game. My brother and I had a chat about it after sharing some unfavorable words towards the subject du jour. He seems to think it’ll affect the passing game, while I have a hard time seeing that. His reasoning is sound, guys in the NHL coming onto the puck have about a quarter of a second to take a look and make a play, under good circumstances. What if their vision is skewed by a visor? While we agree it wouldn’t result in NHL games looking like pond pickup hockey, that’s the extent we agreed on before reverting to calling Chris Pronger names.

    Does adding a visor after years of playing without one change the way you see the game? I’ve worn a cage all my life, and have worn glasses all my adult life (ahh the joys of bad eyes and astigmatism!), so there’s always been something “right there” in front of my face. Just curious as it’s a situation I’ll likely never know first-hand.

    I know you’re in favor of giving the axe to fighting, and when it comes to canned fights I’m with you. But I’m a fan of spontaneous fighting as it affects energy shifts in the building, and I guess I’m a bit of a neanderthal. At any rate, do you think this may be a step towards full face masks and perhaps the elimination of fighting altogether?

  4. chaas: regarding the impact of visors upon the passing game in the NHL, I’d say there’s nothing to substantiate that, given over 60 percent of NHL players now wear visors, including most of the game’s best players.

    As for the adoption of full face masks and the elimination of fighting, the NHL apparently doesn’t want to go down that road. Not saying it couldn’t happen one day, but that’ll be a day well in the future.

  5. Tom – it’s “couldn’t care less”. If you “could care less” that means you do care if someone wears a visor. Did you think that the helmet rule was media driven? I’m for a mandatory visor rule. I’d be even more for it if I ran a team.

    As far as visibility with a visor – I’ve played with a visor, a cage and without either. The visor doesn’t hinder anything vision-wise (especially if you replace it regularly, which I’m sure NHLers do). After almost losing a front tooth in a beer league at 36, I went to full cage. It sucked for the first month or so, but after I got used to it I’m fine. Cages would never fly in the NHL though. Too much range of vision loss.

  6. With 20 of the top 21 scorers wearing visors, the crap about it impeding a player is shot down. It’s time to grandfather it in. Every young player plays with face protection. Don’t let them take it off.
    When I go to work, I HAVE to wear hard hat, eye protection, hi-viz vest and steel toed boots, or I don’t get on the job site. I didn’t use to, but times have changed. I may not like it, and some of it is an inconvenience, but it that’s the workplace standard. Time for the NHL (the only league not to) to tell the players those are the standards. And if it went to a vote in the NHPLA, I’m sure it would pass now.
    There are better ways of proving your manhood than not wearing a visor.

  7. As long as it doesn’t affect the quality of play, wear suits of armor for all I care.

  8. As with everything the solution lies in money. I don’t know the whole insurance story, but if insurers refused or exorbitantly charged players w/o visors, they’d catch on pretty damn quick. Surely there is an incentive for the underwriters that the players better protect themselves.
    Regarding the NHL’s supposed desire to eliminate fights, would they have scheduled both Pitt/NYI and Bos/Mont. in home and home games this week?