For a true advocate of mandatory visor use in the N.H.L., talk to a hockey player who lost an eye playing the game. “Yeah, I think visors should be mandatory, and right away,” said Greg Neeld, who lost his left eye to a high stick as an 18-year-old junior defenseman in 1973 and later developed the first helmet visor. “Why wait to grandfather them in? If you do that and it takes 10 years until everyone is wearing them, how many serious eye injuries will there be — three, four? Is it worth it?” Visor use moved front and center as an issue when Rangers defenseman Marc Staal, who was not wearing a visor, was struck just above the right eye by a shot on March 5. He hopes to return this season, but was experiencing blurred vision earlier this week. On Friday, Staal’s brothers Eric and Jordan, who play for the Carolina Hurricanes, told reporters that they would start wearing visors. Earlier this month, Pittsburgh defenseman Brooks Orpik donned a visor, citing Marc Staal’s injury. At a meeting Wednesday, N.H.L. general managers strongly recommended making helmet visors mandatory for incoming players starting next season. The N.H.L. Players’ Association, which has resisted a visor requirement, indicated its members might be willing to accept a rule with a grandfather clause. Neeld was a point-a-game defenseman with the Toronto Marlboros at the top level of Canadian junior hockey on Dec. 7, 1973, when he was struck in the eye by an opponent’s high stick as he skated down the right boards. “I had my elbow up and the stick came up straight into the eye and split it,” Neeld said. “It hit part of the bone above my eye, like the puck did that hit Marc Staal, but in my case not enough to save the eye. It was cut down to a quarter-inch from the optic nerve. The surgeon at Toronto General said it was the worst eye injury he ever saw.” Remarkably, Neeld came back to the Marlboros three months later and wore a fiberglass helmet visor made by CCM. “The first game back, that CCM mask fogged up,” Neeld said. “I hit two goal posts. Can you imagine what it would have been like if I scored two goals that game?” The next game Neeld played two shifts, and then the Marlies consigned him to the stands for the rest of the season. The next season Neeld joined the Calgary Centennials in the Western junior league. He wore a clear polycarbonate visor that he and his father, an airline pilot, designed and made. It used a wire cage and a three-quarter-inch space at the top of the mask to provide ventilation. They called it the Neeld Shield.
First Visor Wearer Remains Advocate
New York Times | Mar 23