Mandatory Visors and Smaller Goalie Pads Focus of General Managers

USA TODAY Sports

Requiring the use of visors and adjusting the size of goalie equipment were just two of the many topics the NHL General Managers covered during their meetings Wednesday in Toronto. These are not new topics to the world of the NHL but due to some recent serious facial injuries the visor requirement has gained some momentum and the GMs believe smaller goalie leg pads will make the game more exciting.

The visor issue has been discussed at length in recent years but players have been resistant to the change; not surprising as the sport was played without helmets or visors for over 80 years. About 4 years ago the league looked into the requirement and at that time the players voted overwhelmingly against it. Now, it seems like more of a possibility that a grandfathered rule could get approval. In 2009 when the vote was brought to the players only 30% voted in favor of the rule change and now approximately 73% of players wear the visors, according to the New York Times.

The increase in players’ acceptance of the visors seems simply explained, all college teams, junior and AHL leagues require them for players so when they young guys move up to the NHL nearly 90% continue to use them. That folded with the uptake in serious facial injuries, like the one to Rangers defenseman March Staal earlier this month when he was hit in the face with a puck, seems to propel an increase in the usage of visors and awareness from players for the necessity.

However, some players are still adamant that it be a personal decision. The players typically seen as “muscle” don’t want to deal with visors at all, partly because of the problems that arise with rule 46.6 Face Protection - If a player penalized as an instigator of an altercation is wearing a face shield (including a goalkeeper), he shall be assessed an additional unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Should the player (including a goalkeeper) who instigates the fight be wearing a face shield, but removes it before instigating the altercation, the additional unsportsmanlike conduct penalty shall not apply.

Therefore the enforcers will have to remember to remove the shield before starting a fight and that can be easy to forget to do in the heat of the moment. Other reasons some are anti-visor are because they often fog up and it can be difficult for the player to fully see what is going on around them. The grandfather rule seems to be a good compromise, so the veterans aren’t forced into playing with the visors. We will see what happens when The NHLPA polls its players this summer, but to me the change appears to be eventually inevitable. If the players vote to have mandatory visor use grandfathered, it would have to go to the Competition Committee and the Board of Governors for approval before it could be enacted, according to NHL.Com.

The GMs also said Wednesday they are in favor of adjusting goalie equipment. Specifically, according to Kay Whitmore of the NHL's Hockey Operations Department, which handles goalie equipment issues, they want to reduce the height of the goalie pad above the knee and make the knee pads more conforming to create more room between the legs. This will allow for more goals making the games more entertaining for the spectators.

There will be a lot more debate over these types of adjustments for the next several months. A majority of goalies will likely be opposed to more alterations, and I am not sure I blame them. Goalie equipment was readjusted in 2005-06, 2008-09 and 2010-11, but the GMs stated Wednesday they wanted more. This would obviously greatly affect goals against stats for the net minders widening the 5-hole, but of course safety is their key issue. Research will be conducted and Whitmore is tasked with working with the goalies and equipment manufactures to find a workable solution.

The Chicago Blackhawks own Corey Crawford is not in favor of reducing the size of goalie equipment. “Honestly, I don’t think it’s really how many goals are scored that makes the game exciting,” he told ESPN. “I think it’s the speed and skill, the passing. I think as long as the game is fast, it’ll be exciting. If we get 10-8 hockey games, doesn’t mean it’s going to be an exciting game. Just got to make sure the refs call the hooking and holding penalties and just let the speed of the game continue.”

One GM noted to ESPN.com that if goalies won’t sign off on the changes, the alternative is to threaten bigger nets. Personally, I think that is completely ridiculous, it was discussed in the past and dismissed for good reason. The nets have been the same size for 100 years. I see no reason to change them at all. Players are better, defensive players and goalies are honing their skills and playing well, so make it easier to score by widening the net? That is just silly. As long as goalie safety isn’t compromised I think the equipment adjustments are a much better compromise than widening the net; that is if any change is needed at all. Whitmore is expected to present his findings to the Competition Committee this summer.

I am not known for being open to change; some may say I am set in my ways. I am of the opinion if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. The visor issue may be a change I can understand though, due to the safety issues. However, I don’t know if I can get behind the idea that more goals are needed to make the game more exciting. It seems the GMs are trying to infer that goals or goal scoring chances are down this year, but according to EPSN they are right on pace with the past 10 years. In fact, as of last Sunday, this year there has been the same number of goals scored on average per game as the last two years, 5.6, through the same number of games played.

I think the game is exciting as is. Some of the most exciting games I have seen have been low scoring ones. Yes, it is awesome when the Hawks get a ton of goals; we all love that, but to me as long as the 2 points are there at the end of the game that is all that matters.

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