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Rossi: Players should follow Orpik, Staals, and choose to wear visors.

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The Penguins' Brooks Orpik against the Rangers on March 16, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.

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Saturday, March 23, 2013, 11:23 p.m.
 

Hockey is no place for mandates.

The people in this sport famously fought against helmets.

There are socks made of Kevlar that are proven to reduce the risk of skate blades slicing tendons, but good luck convincing a majority of players to try them even for a practice. There is a better chance that players wear Batman-approved underwear than a majority of general managers agreeing to eliminate all hits to the head.

Visors, though, appear to be coming to the NHL.

At their in-season meetings Wednesday in Toronto, general managers discussed instituting a rule that would require players to wear visors. There will be obstacles, starting with required approval from the players' association, which is doing its job to resist any mandate for face shields and/or guards.

Still, do not overlook the significance of the union taking a poll of players this summer on the face shield topic. The NHLPA is run by smart men with their fingers on the pulse of the players, and there is a clear sense that opinions are changing.

More than 60 percent of current players wear some form of face protection. That group is growing.

Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik recently joined the majority. An injury to Marc Staal of the New York Rangers convinced him there was “no good reason” to play without a shield.

Orpik said technological advances have created a visor that is mostly unnoticeable, one that does not feel heavy, does not turn foggy, does not need to be replaced every period.

Visors are not perfect, but equipment companies are closer to perfecting them than at any point.

It is not as though a visor has prevented Kris Letang from seeing the ice well enough to become a Norris Trophy favorite. Visors also hardly have limited Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin or Alex Ovechkin, players who have combined to win four of the last seven NHL scoring titles and MVPs.

Players at nearly every level of hockey other than the NHL are required to wear face protection.

NHL players, however, should not face a requirement. They should make the decision on their own — as Eric and Jordan Staal did Friday.

Neither had worn a visor — unless an injury required face protection — before their brother's injury earlier this season.

Jordan Staal always offered a simple reason for his decision to go without: He did not like wearing one.

Hockey players are unfairly labeled as stubborn. Really, they are creatures of habit, and, at least in the NHL, Staal's habit did not include looking at action through plastic.

Habits change.

The other 700-plus members of the NHLPA, at least those not already on board with visors, should look to the examples recently set by Orpik and Eric and Jordan Staal.

Common sense need not be mandated, but it must be part of players' world view.

 

 

 
 


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