When the Flyers gathered for training camp in September, Wayne Simmonds' helmets were placed into his locker outfitted with squeaky new visors.
It was a sight that drew the attention of fans and media alike, because for as long as they'd been seeing Simmonds play his trade for the Flyers, he had never worn a visor.
However, the "new" addition actually isn't all that new for Simmonds. Turns out he's worn one before, and for a lengthy period - first during his junior days in Owen Sound and Sault Ste. Marie, and then for three seasons with the Los Angeles Kings. But for whatever reason, when the Flyers acquired Simmonds in 2011, the visors remained in Hollywood.
"Once I came to Philly, I took it off," Simmonds said. "I haven't worn it for the last five years."
That changed over the summer when Simmonds got a call from Ron Hextall. The GM, who worked for the Kings when Simmonds played there, conveyed that he would very much appreciate it if perhaps Simmonds might consider possibly returning to utilizing the eye protection.
And in reality, it wasn't just Hextall who wanted to see it happen. Simmonds' loved ones… his girlfriend, family, friends, etc. were all in the pro-visor camp.
"Everyone's been ragging on me or whatever," Simmonds said with a smile. "I'm kind of impartial… I don't care if I wear it, I don't care if I don't. I guess it's more so for other people to leave me alone at this point."
The NHL put a "grandfathered" rule in place in 2013 that requires visors for all players entering the league past that date, just like they did with helmets back in 1978. However, players who played 25 or more NHL games prior to the 2013-14 season still have the option to go without them, and some of those veterans who got used to doing so are often resistant to change their ways.
The main reason for that is simply because visors require more of an adjustment than many people realize. Whereas other recent innovations to player safety like Kevlar socks and skate boot protectors are more of a comfort adjustment, a visor is (obviously) directly in a player's field of vision. And with the visor there, any little thing that pops up during a course of a game can affect that field of vision.
"When you don't have your visor on, you can sweat all over the place and you don't notice," Simmonds said. "When the visor's on, you're sweating and it's sticking to the visor, and it's getting foggy, the building's hot, as soon as someone's talking beside you your visor's fogging up. It's a little bit annoying, but I guess it's a good annoyance to have when you could be saving your eyes from something."
That, after all, is what it comes down to. And Simmonds admitted to seeing the value in that. The game's speed, the increased velocity of shots due to innovations in sticks, and Simmonds' own role on the team all come to mind - remember, for instance, that his main role on the power play is to stand in front of the net and try to deflect slapshots from the point. The shot wouldn't even have to hit him directly - one deflection of one of those shots that goes the wrong way can have dire consequences, and that has crossed his mind.
"You see a lot of freak deflections and things like that," Simmonds said. "I don't wear the visor for the last five years, you don't even really think about it. I got hit in the face a few times, but I guess for me it kind of comes along with the game. But I've been paying attention lately, and a lot of pucks hitting of skates and sticks and grazing guys visors… [plus] I'm getting a little bit of PK time too so far, and you always have your sticks in lanes and stuff like that, and you never can tell where a puck is going to go once it hits a stick. So it's made me just a little bit safer."
Simmonds initially committed to keeping the visor in place for the preseason, but he has kept it now through 10 games and seems to be leaning towards leaving it there. That's good news for all the people around him who are hoping to see that happen.
"I'm comfortable with it right now," he said. "So far, so good."