Let me begin by saying I am a 21-year-old female who has never played sanctioned ice hockey and the last thing I would ever try to do is tell some of the best players and veterans of the sport in the world, who are also fully grown men, how to do their job. However, in light of Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger’s recent eye injury, it is obvious that something needs to be done about mandating facial protection in the NHL.
The clear visor worn by hockey players, or dark tinted if you are Alexander Ovechkin, also commonly known in the hockey world as a shield, protects players when it comes to getting a slap shot speeding puck in the face, attention Flyer Ian Lapierrere, or a high-stick to the eye, the recent Pronger injury.
Most players don a shield, including Flyer Claude Giroux, whose game is not adversely affected because clearly, he is a stud on the ice. However, these young guys are used to wearing the shield, while many of the veterans are from the older days of hockey and feel it will take an edge off of their game if they wear one because they have not matured through their careers by wearing one. Enter Pronger.
As long as there is some other player not wearing one, guys like Pronger will decline as well. The NHL needs to strongly consider making shields mandatory. Why? Because players are investments. Management needs to protect their investments.
Fans come out to see the top players in the league in any sport. Teams invest millions of dollars in these athletes. On the flip side, the athlete, such as Pronger, wants to perform to the best of his ability, to help the team and to ensure he is going to get the best contract he can, which is without a doubt his right.
Therefore, the league needs to step up. If everyone has to wear a shield, no one will be disadvantaged. Much of the argument on the players’ side is that if their performance is affected, they could lose up to a million dollars a year. However, this is a really limited view. An eye injury could end a career. A shield could keep a player eligible to play longer. Therefore, shields equal more money in the long run as well, no? Everyone can win.
The NHL needs to promote the interest of the players. Veteran players may have a couple of years left in the NHL but they could potentially have an entire half of their life left to live out after hockey. Protect the players.