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Foresight A rash of eye injuries cries out for a decision to make visors mandatory

During the Panthers-Capitals game on Nov. 22, a slap shot struck
Florida defenseman Branislav Mezei in the face, causing a
fractured orbital bone and a buildup of blood behind his left
eye. More than two weeks later Mezei, who wasn't wearing a
protective face shield, still cannot see out of that eye. "If he
had had a visor, nothing would have happened," says Panthers
captain Olli Jokinen. "I'm considering starting to use one."

He shouldn't have a choice. With pucks flying faster than ever,
it's time that the plexiglass shields, which are required in
junior and college hockey and in most European pro leagues,
became mandatory in the NHL. Visors are worn by about 35% of the
league's players, and the list of skaters felled by preventable
facial and eye injuries is growing. Stars defenseman Philippe
Boucher suffered a shattered left orbital bone when he was hit by
a puck two weeks ago, and Blues captain Al MacInnis had surgery
to repair a torn retina caused when he was hit in the left eye
with a stick in 2001. (Neither player wore a visor at the time.)

In spite of those injuries a majority of players oppose a visor
mandate. Says Canucks forward Trevor Linden, who is the NHLPA
president, "When it comes to equipment we want players to have a

Some players find visors uncomfortable, while others grumble that
they hamper their vision. There's also lingering sentiment that
having a visor doesn't conform to the sport's macho code but,
says Flyers G.M. Bobby Clarke, "it's foolish for players to wear
them their entire lives and then take them off when they get to
the NHL."

A rule that requires rookies to wear shields and grandfathers
visorless veterans--similar to the one that introduced mandatory
helmets in 1979--would preserve that right and gradually increase
player safety. The league and union leadership should push for
such a decree. If players can't see the wisdom of shields, their
eyes should be opened for them.

COLOR PHOTO: GLENN JAMES/DALLAS STARS Playing without a face shield, Boucher had his left orbital boneshattered by a puck.