Enough is enough, the brothers Staal have decided.
Eric Staal and Jordan Staal donned visors at practice on Friday at Raleigh Center Ice with the intention of wearing them regularly for the first time in their NHL careers.
It’s a decision spurred after their visor-less brother, Marc, was hit in the right eye with a puck in New York on March 5. Marc remains out indefinitely as the swelling around his eye lessens and his vision improves, and when he returns, he likely will wear a visor.
Now he won’t be alone.
Eric and Jordan both said they plan to continue practicing with the visors on in hopes of wearing them in-game beginning Tuesday against Winnipeg.
“It’s a decision that’s been brewing for a little while,” Eric said. “I just feel like the risk isn’t worth it right now.”
“It’s a smart thing to wear,” Jordan said.
On Monday, Eric and Jordan visited with Marc while the Hurricanes were in New York, as they saw first-hand the severity of an eye injury.
“Sometimes you feel like your invincible, but as many guys have seen, you’re not,” Eric said. “I’ve had someone extremely close to me go through something you don’t want to see anyone go through, so I’ll put one on.”
The decision to wear visors, which the brothers initially dodged yet likely heavily reconsidered after Marc’s injury, was one that Eric and Jordan made together, of course encouraged by their spouses and mother.
“They’ve been harping on me for years about it, like anybody,” Eric said. “Jordan and I talked about it, and we’re going to give it a shot.”
“All of them are probably pretty happy that we’re giving it a shot right now,” Jordan said.
Head coach Kirk Muller, who said he didn’t wear a visor or a mouth guard during his playing days, had recently approached Eric about the subject. He wasn’t too surprised to see the new look today.
“The game’s changed. It’s so fast,” he said. “It’s a different generation and a different mindset.”
With visor usage already mandatory at nearly every level of competitive hockey, from college to junior leagues in North America to the American Hockey League, it’s not uncommon to see droves of visor-wearing young players in the NHL. Now, a visor requirement may have the support of the NHL Player's Association. Just days ago, the NHLPA’s Mathieu Schneider said players will be surveyed on a potential mandatory visor rule, which would include a grandfather clause for players already in the league, something in which Jordan favored.
Though Eric and Jordan have not regularly worn visors in the NHL, this isn’t their first experience with them. International Ice Hockey Federation rules stipulate that anyone born after Dec. 31, 1974 must wear a visor. Eric, born nearly 10 years after that cut-off line on Oct. 29, 1984, had to wear a visor with Team Canada in the 2010 Winter Olympics en route to winning a gold medal.
Jordan, who made his international debut with Eric on Team Canada in the 2007 World Championships, had to wear a visor. That team also won gold.
“It’s something I’ve worn in the biggest competition in the world, the Olympics. I wore it for the whole tournament and had no problem at all,” Eric said. “It’s just a matter of doing it.”
Still, it’s an adjustment for someone who is so accustomed to skating without one. This is Eric’s ninth season in the league and Jordan’s seventh.
“It’s more of just the freedom of not having it – the air in your face, being able just to wipe the sweat, all the simple things. That’s basically the difference,” Eric said. “As far as playing wise, once you’re out there, you don’t really even think about it. You see the same and you do the same things.”
“It’s there, but it’s not a huge deal,” Jordan said. “It was a little different, but it’s something that every player can easily get used to.”
For the Staals, the temporary adjustment is worth their long-term health.
“As we’ve seen in the past with anybody that’s had an eye injury, they put [a visor] on after,” Eric said. “So why am I going to wait until that happens to me to put one on? Why not just put one on now?”