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NHL, NHLPA agree on mandatory visors

Wednesday, 06.5.2013 / 9:36 AM CT / News
By Mike Brophy
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NHL, NHLPA agree on mandatory visors

TORONTO -- All players entering the NHL beginning next season could be required to wear a visor.

The NHL's Competition Committee met Tuesday here. Among its recommendations was a proposal that would make visors mandatory for all players entering the League, starting in 2013-14.

Under the proposal, someone who has played in the NHL will have the option of not wearing a visor.

Any changes must be approved by the League's Board of Governors.

Mathieu Schneider, the National Hockey League Players' Association special assistant to the executive director, said players were polled regarding making visors mandatory, and their response was a big reason for the change. Schneider would not release the results of the players' poll but said it was a significant majority.

"We feel very comfortable with where the players stand on this," Schneider said. "Today, we accomplished an awful lot and we were able to get consensus. It was the first time since we have been polling players that we had a clear majority that have wanted it grandfathered in."

Approximately 73 percent of NHL players wore visors this season.

Schneider added a serious eye injury suffered by New York Rangers defenseman Marc Staal this season probably helped sway the votes of some players.

"Every time you get an injury like that, any player that is playing without a visor starts to think about it or has his mom calling him or his wife and kids," Schneider said of Staal's injury. "It's a reason why the numbers are so high. More guys put a visor on after the Staal injury this year."

Schneider said he doesn't believe making visors mandatory will be a big deal for players entering the NHL. He added there was no consideration given to immediately making all players wear a visor. In the survey conducted by the NHLPA, a small percentage of players felt all players should be required to wear a visor right away.

"I think the biggest thing is every player coming into the League has to have previously worn one," Schneider said. "And we have 70-plus percent of the players in the League currently wearing one. Overall, it's been a change in attitude."

The Competition Committee -- which featured five players from the NHLPA, five NHL executives, an NHL referee, and members of the League's hockey operations department -- also announced other potential changes and recommendations for next season, including:

-- All double minor penalties for high-sticking will be subject to video review.

-- The League will eliminate the attainable pass, which gave linesmen the discretion to wave off icing infractions on attempted passes that are deemed to be attainable. With the new standard, there must be contact with the stick.

-- The NHL will experiment with hybrid icing in the preseason before a decision will be made by the Board of Governors on whether to carry it into the regular season or maintain the current standard.

-- A sub-committee will be formed as early as next week to study all equipment worn by goaltenders and skaters. Schneider said all equipment will be examined.

-- Beginning next season, the NHL could use nets that are 4 inches shallower. Nets will still be 6 feet wide by 4 feet tall, but they will be 40 inches in depth, down from 44 inches.

"The purpose is there is more room to work behind the net and more room to come out and do the jam plays (wrap-around)," said Colin Campbell, the NHL's Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations. "Hopefully, it can produce more offense again. We have had this net ready for three or four years. We don't know exactly how it is going to work, but our best guess is it will be better and not worse."

There was no talk about making the goal dimensions bigger.

Campbell said the players agree equipment, particularly goalie equipment, has become too big.

"We have to become stricter in our approach and we have to actually deal with goaltenders who do cheat," he said.

Schneider said plenty of consideration was given to how much equipment has made players feel invincible and how dangerous some equipment has become.

"That was definitely a big factor," Schneider said. "If we hadn't learned so much about brain injuries over the last decade, we might not be having this conversation. Essentially, what we have done is give players gear now that enables them to block shots with their skates, hands, and I've seen players dive headfirst to block shots, and that is something that wouldn't have happened a decade ago."

Schneider said it is important to try the hybrid-icing rule in preseason before making a decision to implement it or scrap it altogether.

"There are a lot of players that have never played with it and may not fully understand it," Schneider said. "I think this will give them a better idea of what to expect. We will convene at the end of training camp with our board and see if we would like to continue with it for the regular season. Otherwise, we would go back to the icing rule the way it was."

The Board of Governors will meet later this month to discuss and vote on the proposals made by the Competition Committee.

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