Visor debate in the NHL a hot topic on Off The Record Staff

5/20/2008 7:06:02 PM

When will visors be mandatory in the National Hockey League?

That was the question tabled on Tuesday's episode of Off The Record, a topic that engaged a spirited debate between American Hockey League President and CEO Dave Andrews and Boston Bruins General Manager Peter Chiraelli.

Visors have been mandatory in the AHL since the beginning of the 2006-07 season, a decision made after 20-year-old defenceman Jordan Smith, a second-round draft pick of the Anaheim Ducks, lost the vision in his left eye after being struck by a deflected puck while playing for the Portland Pirates in February 2006.

Donning a visor in the NHL remains up to the player.

''I think that the players still have a choice,'' Chiarelli said adamantly.

Andrews, noting that every player currently in the NHL has likely worn a visor in development leagues, took the other side.

''I don't think there is any reason for any player to take it off,'' Andrews said. ''To play without one is to consciously take it off.''

Andrews claimed that high-sticking minor penalties are down substantially since the implementation of the visor rule.

For those who are against visors because they feel it will curb the fighting aspect of the game, Andrews said that fighting this season was up compared to last.

''Sticks are down in our league. Sticking majors are down my 35 per cent. we haven't seen any negative results,'' Andrews said.

Chiarelli defended his position:

''Don't get me wrong, I believe in the protection of these players. I think what's happening in the American Hockey League is great. But when it comes to professionals, they have to be comfortable."

The topic came on the heels of an incident in Sunday's IIHF World Championship that saw Team Canada forward Jason Spezza take a high stick to the face from Russian defenceman Vitali Proshkin. Spezza suffered a serious gash to his right cheek, just below the eye, which may have turned ugly had he not had a visor on.