TORONTO — Almost three months after New York Rangers defenceman Marc Staal suffered a career-threatening eye injury, mandatory visor use will take centre stage at Tuesday’s NHL competition committee meeting.
Hybrid icing and goaltending equipment are also on the agenda while fighting is not expected to be discussed.
A hot topic well before Staal took a puck in the eye, mandating all NHL players to wear visors is something the league office has supported for years. The NHL Players’ Association educates its members on visors but has considered it a matter of individual choice.
That could change based on an internal NHLPA survey taken late this season. The union asked its members to weigh in on making visors mandatory for all players — those entering the league and grandfathering in current ones — or keeping it a choice for everyone. According to the NHLPA, approximately 73 per cent of players wore visors during the 2013 season, up from a Hockey News estimate of 28 per cent in 2001-02.
"My feeling is that I'd like to see them be grandfathered in," said Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland, who will be one of the NHL's team officials in the meeting. "The players basically wear visors almost at every league other than the NHL. I certainly understand players that have been playing without them and it's their way to make a living. In the middle and later in their careers they don't want to change, but if you grandfather them in, you could slowly through time have all our players wearing visors."
General managers voted in March to approve the implementation of hybrid icing, which was used experimentally in the American Hockey League during the NHL lockout. Carolina Hurricanes defenceman Joni Pitkanen suffered a broken heel bone on an icing touch-up in April, prompting more discussion about changing the long-standing rule.
"To me safety's No. 1," said Holland, a proponent of hybrid icing. "Every so often we have an injury that's strictly related to racing for an icing call that a player has either a career-ending injury or a season-ending injury. Why do we want to have somebody get hurt on a race for an icing?"
Under the hybrid icing rule, players race to an imaginary line across the faceoff dots instead of the goal-line.
Players have expressed mixed sentiments about hybrid icing, given that it is designed to prevent serious injuries but also involves making it a judgment call for linesmen.
GMs also recommended shrinking goaltending equipment, specifically leg and knee padding. Holland said the key is making sure "the goalies can do their job and the shooters can do their job" without sacrificing safety.
A two-thirds vote of the competition committee is needed to pass any changes on to the NHL's board of governors and NHLPA's executive committee.
Ron Hainsey of the Winnipeg Jets, Cory Schneider of the Vancouver Canucks, Michael Cammalleri of the Calgary Flames and David Backes and Alex Pietrangelo of the St. Louis Blues will represent the NHLPA. Mathieu Schneider, a former NHL defenceman and special assistant to NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr, will chair the meeting as a non-voting member.
General managers Steve Yzerman of the Tampa Bay Lightning and David Poile of the Nashville Predators, Toronto Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle and Philadelphia Flyers chairman Ed Snider will represent the NHL with Holland. Referee Don van Massenhoven will act as an observer.