Wear a visor, say MacLean, Maurice

RALEIGH, North Carolina – In his first season of junior hockey with the Windsor Spitfires in 1984-1985, while playing in a charity game, Carolina Hurricane coach Paul Maurice almost lost his left eye when a puck deflected off his stick and hit him.
The injury effectively ended his chances of playing in the NHL – he was picked dead last, 252nd, by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1985 NHL draft – and to this day he has only limited peripheral vision in his left eye.
He doesn’t understand why every NHL player doesn’t wear a visor.
Neither does Ottawa Senators coach Paul MacLean.
One night while he was playing for the Winnipeg Jets, MacLean was in a puck battle with Vancouver Canuck Stan Smyl when a stick came up and caught him in the corner of the eye.
Even though he played in an era where 95 per cent of NHL players didn’t wear visors, and even though his general manager, the fearsome John Ferguson, disapproved, MacLean bucked the trend and starting wearing a visor.
“It actually only ended up being a two-stitch cut but it was enough to scare me,” he said Tuesday morning
“It actually scared me more than John Ferguson scared me for putting the visor on.
“I had a wife and three kids at home and it was something that could affect (my career) because you only have two of them.
“So I put the visor on. I’m surprised that not everybody wears them.”
Yet there are the holdouts, such as Flyer defenceman Chris Pronger, who suffered an injury to his right eye when he was clipped by a stick on Monday night.
That is certain to raise again the question of whether visors should be made mandatory, as it usually does when there’s another eye injury, but even people like Maurice said it’s not an easy call to make.
In contrast to MacLean’s NHL playing days, most players today wear a visor. The ones who don’t are like the last few players who didn’t wear a helmet.
In junior hockey, they became mandatory the year after Maurice injured his eye, so today’s players have never known a world without visors.
“I’ve never been able to not wear one,” said Ottawa defenceman Jared Cowen.
But even if Cowen’s generation is comfortable with them, the previous generation that isn’t. They’ve never used them, or have only briefly used them, and they don’t like them – just like players didn’t like helmets.
“I think it’s very difficult to take professional athletes and tell them what to wear to play a game,” said Maurice
“I think now, with what they’re used to growing up, yeah, I think everybody should probably wear them, and it makes sense.
“But there is a difference, if you take a guy who has never worn one and puts one on, it’s a different feeling. It feels like you’re in a different room.”
Ottawa defenceman Filip Kuba is in that group. He had to wear a visor when he played in the Olympics in 2006 and 2010 but found it a bother. It would fog up all the time and he was forever wiping ice chips off it. So he doesn’t wear one to play in the NHL.
“I played with it but I wasn’t comfortable with it,” he said.
There is still a bit of stigma about wearing a visor, said Maurice. Some tough guys still chirp about them, but that, too, is fading away as the generations shift.
“They don’t chirp at each other the same way they used to, because 90 per cent of your team is wearing one, so you’re beeping your own bench when you do that.
“From what I’m picking up on the bench, there’s just that much talk about it.”
STAAL STALLED: Hurricane captain Eric Staal has a respectable three goals and one assist in his team’s first eight games, but what has everyone worried is that he’s a team-leading minus-10.
Why? That’s the big question.
One theory is that he has shied away from playing a physical game after knocking his brother Marc out of action with a check last season. The New York Rangers defenceman is still out as he struggles to overcome a concussion.
Eric says that’s not the reason, that it hasn’t affected his play.
But it couldn’t have helped his mental state when the Hurricanes got to Winnipeg last Saturday and Eric opened The Globe and Mail’s to see a large photo of him checking his brother Marc on the front of the sports section.
“It wasn’t what I was hoping to wake up to in the morning,” Eric said Tuesday morning.
“That’s the way it goes.
But it’s behind us now, for him and for me. It’s just about getting better, and he will.”
NHL READY: Few 18-year-old players have made such a seamless transition from junior hockey to the NHL as Hurricane centre Jeff Skinner, the team’s first-round pick (seventh overall) in 2010.
Last year, as the youngest player in the league, all Skinner did was score 31 goals and 32 assists and win the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie.
And heading into last night’s game against the Senators, he was carrying right on with a team-leading three goals and six assists in eight games.
That’s not bad for someone who came to training camp last year with hardly any expectations. He had braced himself for the worst.
“Going into camp, I really didn’t think I was going to stay,” he said.
“I always had that sort of in the back of my mind, that I would be going back to Kitchener, and I was fine with that.
“I thought maybe I’d get a chance to go back and be with the great team we had in Kitchener, and maybe get an opportunity to play for the (Canadian) junior team.
“The way it worked out I’m obviously happy, that they gave me the opportunity. But I think I would have been OK if they sent me back. I was pretty comfortable about going back to Kitchener.”
The same decision the Hurricanes faced with Skinner is, of course, the one that’s facing the Senators with Swedish centre Mika Zibanejad.
The 18-year-old centre, with one assist to show for eight games, played his ninth NHL game against the Hurricanes so the Senators are at a point of no return. They have to keep him or send him home.
That decision is expected to come today or Thursday, before the Senators play the Florida Panthers at Scotiabank Place.

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