Chris Pronger’s cell buzzed Tuesday morning with a text message from an old Edmonton teammate.
It was Jarret Stoll, who, like many, was worried about Pronger’s condition after the Flyers captain left Monday night’s game versus the Leafs with a scary eye injury.
“I wished him good luck. He was pretty scared about it,” Stoll told ESPN.com.
Pronger’s injury renewed intense debate in the hockey world about visors in the NHL.
“It’s one of those things that’s just going to keep happening in the game,” Stoll said. “Pucks are going a million miles an hour. Sticks are flying. There’s so many deflections in the game today. It’s hard for that not to happen.”
Stoll might just be the poster boy for change. After playing the first eight pro seasons of his career sans shield, the 29-year-old center for the Los Angeles Kings is wearing a visor this year.
“The last couple of summers I tried one on and had it on for a couple of weeks but didn’t stick with it,” Stoll said. “This summer I told myself, ‘I’m going to put it on; I’m going to keep it on and I’m not going to think about it.’ I told the trainers to not let me take it off and I’ve just kept going with it.”
He had some close calls the last few years. His mother was on him, as was his girlfriend, as was his sister. And Manny Malhotra’s scare last season made an impression, too.
“Yeah, all those things for sure,” Stoll said. “Everybody in my life had been on me. It was about time. You got to be smart.”
The biggest complaint from players who try it and ditch it is that the adjustment is too big. Some complain of depth perception issues, others that the visors fog up too much.
“It took me 2-3 weeks and then I wasn’t even thinking about it,” Stoll said. “Yeah, you’re going to have to wipe it down with a towel. And you’ll get nicks on the visor. But hey, we can get new visors in the NHL. That’s not a big deal.”
Just a few games into the preseason, Stoll was reminded why he made the right decision.
“I got a puck to the side of the visor,” Stoll said. “It may not have hit my eye but it would have hit my face. It was pretty eye-opening.”
As for the solution for the entire league? Stoll feels it’s a no-brainer that players coming into the league should be forced to keep their visors on, and current players can be grandfathered.
“Change happens. Things evolve,” Stoll said. “You have to realize it could be you. It might be too late before you realize that.”
The NHLPA cannot mandate this over its players. It’s clear in the union’s constitution that players must approve that kind of change. All the NHLPA leadership can do is continue to educate its members on safety issues. The NHLPA says the use of visors is at an all-time high, 68 percent, but that its feedback from members continues to be that individual choice should remain. At least until the union does another survey, and maybe that will finally change. It if doesn’t, maybe it’s time for NHLPA executive director Don Fehr to be like the parent who puts sunscreen on his unwilling child. It’s a pain in the butt, but it’s for the child’s own good. Don’t just educate, but forcefully make your point to the players.
Should we go back and allow players to make an individual choice on wearing helmets?
Come on people, let’s wake up.
Penguins Find A Way
Just how the Pittsburgh Penguins entered this weekend first overall in the NHL standings with their injury-riddled lineup is nothing short of ultra-impressive.
OK, they’ve played more games than any other team in the league, but still, to be 8-2-2 entering Saturday’s game at Toronto while missing key pieces is something to marvel at.
“We’ve had some good wins,” Penguins GM Ray Shero told ESPN.com on Friday. “We’re always playing games without that guy or this guy. Honestly, our expectation is to win; it doesn’t matter who’s in the lineup. We play a certain way; we’re getting great goaltending, and our penalty killing has obviously been very good [tops in the NHL] to start the year, and it’s added up to some wins for us.”
Shero paused for a moment when we asked him if he remembers the last time he had most of his lineup together, Sidney Crosby included.
“Man oh man, I think maybe New Year’s Day in the rain?” Shero said. “Or maybe Jan. 5 last season? It’s certainly the last time we had the three centers.”
The waiting game continues on No. 87.
“There’s no rush on this thing; there’s no timetable,” Shero said. “Sid will let us know when he feels right, 100 percent and confident. And when he does, we’ll put him in a game.”
Remove The Trapezoid
Two years ago, Doug Wilson tabled an agenda item at the GMs meeting that garnered very little support: removing the trapezoid.
Turns out he may have been somewhat of a visionary.
Since then, more and more scary collisions are happening between defensemen and oncoming forecheckers, and Wilson remains adamant that removing the trapezoid and allowing goaltenders to freely play the puck in the corners would alleviate some of those collisions on icing and delayed offside situations.
“We feel really comfortable in maintaining that position,” Wilson told ESPN.com this week.
He stopped short of saying he would table it again for the GMs meeting Nov. 15 but was confident it would likely be brought up in conversation.
We’re with Wilson on this one. Let the goalies roam free, and let’s minimize those needless collisions between defenseman and forechecker.
The Winnipeg Jets are off to a so-so start, but regardless of how this season shapes up, any transaction the club pulls off will not -- in any way -- mortgage the future.
You might see a deal that helps both now and tomorrow, but not a trade that in any way sacrifices the long-term planning.
And we suspect later in the season, when the Jets do look at making a deal or two, they’ll deal from their surplus on defense.
GMs on Twitter
We applaud GMs Scott Howson and Mike Gillis for being on Twitter. It made us wonder just how entertaining Brian Burke might be, especially unfiltered.
"Amazingly, people in the organization are pushing me to tweet," Burke told ESPN.com via email Friday. "Right now, I only tweet when I have beans for supper."
Hence, why we need this guy on Twitter.
Have a great weekend, folks.