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Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Players agree with league's visor mandate

By Scott Burnside

BOSTON -- Chris Kelly seems to recall it was in a playoff series between his Ottawa Senators and the Buffalo Sabres.

A teammate's dump-in shot caught a visor-less Kelly in the eye.

"Chris Neil tried dumping the puck in and I was coming out of the zone and it hit me in the eye and it was pretty scary. You get lots of cuts and things like that, but when it’s the eye it kind of hits home," said Kelly, now with the Boston Bruins.

He went to a visor after that incident and, if you'll pardon the expression, never looked back.

Kelly, like all of the players we spoke to Wednesday morning, applauded the NHL competition committee's decision to make visors mandatory starting next season for players coming into the NHL.

Those already in the league will be allowed to make their own decision as it pertains to wearing the protective shield, and won't be forced to don one if they're not wearing one already.

Most players agreed that in the past there might have been a stigma about wearing a visor, that it somehow denoted a lack of toughness. But that feeling simply doesn't exist anymore.

"There used to be (a stigma) about helmets and people quickly started putting those on," Kelly said.

"I don’t think there's the stigma of 'Oh you're not tough anymore.' There's a lot of tough guys that wear visors and handle themselves," Kelly said.

Kelly’s teammate, Jay Pandolfo, likewise entered the league not wearing a visor and after a close call decided to wear one. Pandolfo supports the league's move, too.

"I think it’s a good thing. I think you’re seeing more and more eye injuries and things like that. Pucks move fast and guys are faster," Pandolfo said. "I think in the long run it was going to come to that anyways, where everyone was going to be wearing a visor. Now within 10 years you'll see everyone wearing one."

Even Brenden Morrow, one of the few Pittsburgh Penguins who doesn't wear a visor, believes the league's plan is a good one.

"You don't really have the stigma of a guy wearing a visor. I think taking away the instigator rule kind of got rid of that a little bit. It's not the same as maybe it was 15 to 20 years ago," Morrow said.

"I've had it on, in the Olympics I think I had to wear it, and I broke my nose a few times and I put it back on just so I didn't take a face wash or two when it was still pretty sensitive. But it was something I just couldn't get adjusted to," Morrow said.
"I didn't like cleaning it off every shift. But I think it's the way to go with some of these serious eye injuries we've had lately," he said.

Pittsburgh head coach Dan Bylsma wasn't surprised to see the league take this action.

"I thought it was inevitable, and I'm glad to see them put that in there," Bylsma said.

Boston head coach Claude Julien likened the visor to a seatbelt in a car: Why wouldn't you wear one?

"I'm one of those guys that really believed that when a young player comes up playing minor hockey with a visor and he's used to it, why take it off? I know there's been some accidents with the visor, but there's been more things, incidents saved by the visor than there has been from the other side of it, like a seatbelt in a car," Julien said. "How many lives does it save?"

"There have been some incidents where a player might have been cut by a visor or something similar, but overall this is a good move," Julien added. "To me I think it's a good thing that they're encouraging that visor and that it's going to be grandfathered in. I believe in it."