Sixteen years ago, Craig MacTavish became the last player in NHL history to compete without a helmet. Sometime in the not-too-distant future an established NHL forward or defenseman will become the last player in league history to suit up without a visor.
The NHL’s competition committee announced Tuesday that it has decided to grandfather-in visors, a decision that will make the eye protection a mandatory piece of equipment for all players with fewer than 26 games of NHL experience. Players with at least 27 games of NHL experience will continue to have the choice whether or not to wear a visor moving forward.
The decision to ‘grandfather-in’ visors is not unlike the NHL’s decision in 1979 to make helmets a required piece of equipment for all new players entering the league.
“I think the biggest thing is that every player coming into the league has to have previously worn [a visor]," NHLPA special assistant Mathieu Schneider told reporters in Toronto. "And we have 70-plus per cent of the guys currently wearing them in the league. Overall, it's just been a change in attitude."
While visors are required in junior, college and minor league hockey, some members of the NHLPA have preferred that it remain a choice in NHL.
“I've always had the personal choice to do it,” Capitals forward Jason Chimera said in March. “I can see making it mandatory for people coming in because most people wear it in the AHL now anyways and in Europe they wear them, I know, until you're like 35, 36. It's one of those things that, it's a choice, but I could it see it coming down to being mandatory.”
Chimera was one of six Capitals to play without a visor last season along with John Erskine, Matt Hendricks, Brooks Laich, Steve Oleksy and Aaron Volpatti.
The competition committee’s decision must still be approved by both the NHL’s board of governors and the NHLPA’s executive board, a step which at this point is considered a formality. A recent survey of players found the majority supported the grandfathering-in of visors.
“This was the first time since we’ve been polling players that we’ve had a clear majority that wanted to grandfather it in,” said Schneider, who played without a visor himself in the NHL from 1988-2009. “We feel very comfortable with where the players stand on this.”
The competition committee also announced that nets will be four inches shallower beginning next season- a move that is intended to provide more room behind the goal for plays to develop. All four-minute high sticking penalties will go to video review and hybrid icing will be tested in the preseason.
In addition to Mathieu Schneider, among those in attendance at the competition committee meeting were NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr, Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider as well as NHL players David Backes, Michael Cammalleri, Ron Hainsey, Alex Pietrangelo and Cory Schneider.