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Visor debate resurfaces after Pronger injury

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

Chris Pronger moments after getting hit in the face with a stick Monday in Toronto.

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Three years ago, a scary incident forced Nicklas Lidstrom to rethink his personal on-ice safety.

“I wanted to protect my eyes,” said Lidstrom, who began wearing a visor only after he suffered a broken nose and took 25 stitches under the right eye when he was struck in the face by a puck during the 2008 preseason opener.

“It can still happen, you can still get a stick under there or even a puck,” he said. “But that was one of the precautions I wanted to take after I got hit.”

It’s not known whether or not a visor would have prevented the horrific injury that Philadelphia’s All-Star defenseman Chris Pronger suffered Monday in Toronto. But that was the talk among players in the Wings’ dressing room Tuesday morning at Nationwide Arena.

“My incident was more of a fluke play where (teammate Marian) Hossa put his stick there and (the puck) went off his stick and came right up,” Lidstrom said. “If I would have had a shield, it probably would have hit the shield, so that's why I put one on. It kind of gave me a wake-up call, not having worn a shield for 17-18 years. So that's why I put one on after I got the puck in the eye.”

At least six current Red Wings don’t wear a visor, including Johan Franzen, who needed 21 stitches last spring to close facial cuts received in Game 2 of the Western Conference quarterfinals against Phoenix. Others who have said ‘no’ to visors are, forwards Tomas Holmstrom and Todd Bertuzzi, and defensemen Jonathan Ericsson, Ian White, and Mike Commodore.

Players are required to wear visors in the American Hockey League, but many of them choose to forgo the half-shields once they graduate to the NHL.

“The thing is, I had a lot more cuts when I had a visor on (in the AHL), the visor cut me,” Ericsson said. “If I run into a guy or hit someone … those screws in the visor are not super tight, so that thing comes down and can cut you. So, for me, it's safer without a visor so far, much safer.

“But I think smaller guys, where the sticks are kind of in the range, it's easier to get a stick up there. But I'm one of the taller guys, I think it's advantage to have no visor because I had a bad experience with a visor, so I would like to keep mine off.”

For veterans like Lidstrom, wearing a visor or cage takes some adjustment time.

“Especially where the visor ends, that's where your vision is sometimes,” he said. “When you're looking down at the puck, if the puck is right where the visor ends, that was a bit of an adjustment for me.”

But Lidstrom and Ericsson are divided on the visor debate with the captain siding with the players’ right to choose. For Ericsson, however, he believes visors are potentially more dangerous.

“I still believe it should be the player's choice,” Lidstrom said. “I would encourage them to wear them, start right away when they start skating to get used to it.''

“For me it's safer (without) and I see better, too,” Ericsson said. “Don't have an edge in your way. Absolutely, no question about it, 100 percent, I'm favoring no visors.”

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