I have vague memories of watching hockey as a kid and thinking that Craig MacTavish guy was crazy for not wearing a helmet.
He was the last NHLer (and the only one I can remember) to play without a lid. It blows my mind to think that for many, many years, men played this game without any protection on their heads.
Next step: Visors. It's an on-going debate, and as of now, they are still optional in the NHL. To me, it's as plain and simple as the helmets - they should definitely be mandatory. Of course, there are players who are for them, and players who are against them. Then we have that meathead Don Cherry claiming that players who use them are weak or soft Europeans. I was so angry a while back when Mike Fisher got into that fight where the guy head-butted him, and Grapes had the audacity to say Fisher should have never been in that fight, because it wasn't fair he was wearing a visor. The wuss.
Many guys claim they obstruct their vision on the ice. Well, you know what else can obstruct your vision? A stick in the eye. That's a permanent obstruction, one that I can't believe people risk when they step on the ice without facial protection.
Last night, the issue hit a little too close to home. Baby brother was playing hockey in Shawville in their little 4-team beer league, where of course there are no rules on visors at all. At about 10 PM, the phone rang at home, and it was one of those calls that you just sense there's something wrong. It was Bucky calling to say that someone had to get to the hospital because Luke had been badly cut around his eye.
About 40 stitches around his right eye later, Luke emerged a lucky boy. His eye will be fine, but the scar that will run around it should be a constant reminder of how close he came to being one of those guys who takes a stick in the face and doesn't see ice time ever again. Or anything else, for that matter.
Now, Luke will probably be the first to tell me to get off my soapbox; that it should be a player's decision to wear a visor or not, and that hockey is a dangerous game, with or without a visor. Who knows, maybe the guys stick comes up under the visor and it does even more damage, right?
Or maybe it deflects off the visor, and there's no hospital visit, no scare of losing an eye, and the dude gets a minor penalty for high-sticking. End of story.
So, yeah. I think visors should be mandatory, not only in the NHL, but in any league for that matter. Just as the helmet seems like such an obvious measure of protection, so too should the visor. Then players wouldn't have to worry about being labelled "soft" just because they want to protect their eyes. Everyone would be in the same boat, and certainly the chance of getting a stick or puck in the eye would decrease, which can only be a good thing.
A person's sight is such a precious thing, and taking a gamble with it seems so ridiculous. With one wild swing of a stick, or a puck shot high, it can be gone. Just like that, in the blink of an eye. Why the visor issue hasn't been resolved yet simply baffles me.