Sunday, May 30, 2004


Donald S. Cherry - Safety Ambassador

It's been a rough Cup Finals for poor Ruslan Fedotenko.

In addition to the free plastic surgery he received in Game 1(pictured), Ruslan had his face smashed into the ridge on the boards by Robyn Regehr in Game 3.

Playoff hockey just isn't for pretty boys.

Now, this brings me to the CBC's noted talking head, Don Cherry, who called the glass to be extended right to the edge of the boards, so there would be no ridge or ledge area. If the glass and board area was connected together, the damage to Fedotenko's face and those of other previous victims could have been lessened.

Isn't it ironic (In the Alanis Morrisette sense), that the most outspoken and clear-headed public discourse on player safety comes from a man who has made millions marketing the rough side of the sport? (Think Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em Hockey)

For all of the flak Cherry gets for his anti-European and anti-French sentiments, he has used his Coach's Corner segment numerous times discussing the issue of player safety and common sense approaches to reducing injuries. While the NHLPA is purely concerned with $$, and not the health of its members, and the NHL moves like a glacier to induce change, Cherry is the real players' voice, and a somewhat caring 'Father Figure' for improving conditions in the workplace.

In addition to his call to remove the board ridges, Cherry has discussed...

1. Removing Touch Icing - Is the possibility of negating 1 icing per game worth the risk of season or career ending injuries? Just ask Pat Peake, or Al MacInnis.

2. Softer Elbow and Shoulder Padding - Is there a real need for players to wear kevlar vests and kevlar elbow pads? Elbow injuries were never a serious problem in the NHL, and these rock-hard elbow and shoulder pads are concussion-inducing weapons.

3. Ankle Guards and Neck Guards - Two non-traditional forms of protection that many players to be too obstructive to their game. Cherry has promoted products that would give players optimal protect from some freakish injuries, yet would give the players freedom of movement.

Why is it, then, that Don Cherry is so adamantly opposed to helmet visors?

Look on the face of most players, and you'll see more scars than Frankenstein's creation.
With pucks flying at 90 MPH, and sticks constantly being waved about, why doesn't Cherry worry about life-altering eye injuries? Visors seem to be the most common sense form of protection left for most players to wear.

Is Cherry simply echoing the sentiments of the players?

Bryan Berard has stated publicly that he didn't even want to wear a visor after coming back from a near career-ending injury. Players such as Al MacInnis, who have donned a visor later in the career, were very reluctant to put them on until they were absolutely forced to.
Noted cementheads Owen Nolan and Tie Domi wore visors for very short times recovering from injury, and then ripped them off at the first chance they got?

Is the visor still the Scarlet Letter of the NHL? At least to many North American players, it seems.

Look, CHL players all wear visors, and it doesn't stop them from fighting. Many of the NHL's top players wear visors, and it doesn't seem to have stopped them from scoring.

So they fog up? Then wipe them down, it takes about 5 seconds.

Cherry claims that players should be free to make their own choice.


Would you let workers at a coal mine determine their own safety standards? How about a toxic chemical plant? Just imagine all of the accidents and deaths then.

If Don Cherry was truly concerned about player safety, he'd tell the players to suck it up and don visors permanently. Dismissing visors as 'girly' is not a 'manly' stance at all, it is simply a foolish one. There is nothing admirable about foolish and false bravado. If these players were really tough, they'd wear the same cruddy leather style pads that Maurice Richard wore back in ye olde days.

I didn't realize this but after I left for Maine in 2000, the German Elite League instituted as I believe the first European Elite League that all players must have a (half)visor. There were a series of eye injuries that led to this decision. Ever since the rule was called into law I have not heard of a single incident that involved a stick or a puck that damaged a players eye. At first there were quite a few, mostly North American players, who spoke out heavily against the rule (Paul Stanton for one) but nonetheless they donned a visor, many for the first of their career. Now, 3 seasons later no one is complaining. More and more players come from over-seas to play in the German Elite League, including many tough minor league players who never wore a visor in their life (like Dean Melanson) quietly donned a visor. They are still tough players who check and fight and the high scoring forwards still score- so what's the problem with having NHL players don a visor? Yzerman never wanted a visor - now that he had this terrifying incident on the ice he speaks openly to The Hockey News that he is gonna wear a visor when he goes back out on the ice. I believe that not wearing a visor gives some people an old school mental edge that reaffirms them that they are tough - until a stickblade cuts their eyeball. A visor by no means cuts into the manhood of a player - yet it will take more devastating injuries until someone puts their foot down hard enough. Mandatory visors are a no-nonsense rule and I think should be made mandatory in Junior Hockey - then there would be no excuse as players move on to the pro ranks that they are not used to their visors.

Excellent point about the German Elite League.
In life, people tend to be reactive, rather than proactive. Guys like Demitra only wore a visor after they had a brush with a facial injury.

I believe that if the NHL instuted a visor rule, some people would complain, but they would adapt and get used to it after awhile.

Unfortunately, the NHL capitulated on calling obstruction, and doesn't seem to be strong enough to put its foot down at times... we'll see, but I believe that the NHL will eventually go to mandatory visors in the future.
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