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Visor debate in NHL rages on

With New York Rangers defenseman Marc Staal out indefinitely after leaving Tuesday night's game after he was struck in the eye with a puck, the debate over a mandatory visor rule in the NHL rages on.

Multiple sources have confirmed to ESPNNewYork.com that although the issue was raised during the labor talks that led to a new collective bargaining agreement back in January, the union held firm to protect the "player's choice" in the matter.

NHL players are not required to wear visors, although the league would like that to become a mandatory rule soon.

"It's a continuing discussion we have with the Players' Association and among our general managers," NHL Deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPNNewYork.com when reached via email Wednesday morning. "We have consistently been in favor of a rule mandating visors. The PA has historically been in favor of maintaining 'Player choice,' coupled with continued education and sensitization."

"And, in fairness, the use of visors has continued to increase at a significant pace over the last several years. So, I'm not sure a single incident will materially change or impact the ongoing discussion or approach."

According to NHLPA-gathered statistics, visor use among NHL players continues to increase. Approximately 73 percent of players are wearing visors this season, up from 69 percent in 2011-12.

Mathieu Schneider, special assistant to the executive director of the NHLPA, confirmed Daly's take on the union's stance.

"While the players support visor use being a matter of individual choice, we continue to regularly educate the players on the benefits of wearing a visor so that each player can make an informed decision," he said in a statement. "We will further discuss visors and other important equipment-related matters at our player meetings this summer."

The American Hockey League made protective visors mandatory in 2006 after Portland Pirates defenseman Jordan Smith lost vision in his eye after an incident similar to Staal's, but a corresponding rule change in the NHL has yet to follow.

Staal's injury was a grim reminder of the danger a player faces when not wearing any protective visor.

The 26-year-old defenseman appeared to be in agony as he writhed in pain, face-first and bleeding on the ice during the third period of the Rangers' 4-2 win against the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night. He was able to skate off on his own but he did not return to the game.

The Rangers released a statement on Staal's condition Wednesday night, saying he has "improved significantly" and is expected to make a full recovery.