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Shields Just Make Sense

Griff Notes

By David S. Griffel

It's a good thing that modelling companies don't rely on National Hockey League players to fill their ranks.

If they did, then the list of potential models would be shrinking fast due to a surge of facial damage, most of which could have been avoided.

The Flyers' Eric Lindros had to miss Philly's first three games against Buffalo because a puck hit him under the eye, which caused a clot. Rangers' captain Mark Messier nearly lost an eye when he took a biscuit in the face.

And Pittsburgh's Kjell Samuelsson needed over 100 stitches to the face when he was brutally high-sticked in the mouth last Thursday. Samuelsson was out for the first game of Pittsburgh's second-round series with New Jersey.

All of these injuries and countless others every year can be avoided. The problem is, players don't seem to care.

The situation isn't as bad now as it used to be, when players, didn't even wear helmets. Craig Mac-Tavish of the Flyers is the only numbskull [sic] who still has a chance at leaving his brains on the ice. (He came into the league before headgear became mandatory.)

The case for better protection in professional hockey is the same as for seatbelts. I'm sure many of you don't wear them and would rather they were not mandatory, but people cant' assume that their wonderful driving will prevent them from being in accidents.

Likewise, hockey players are always at risk of taking a puck or an inadvertent stick to the face. Some players are careless, and other are sly enough to wield their cutlery in others' faces when the referee isn't looking.

Therefore, the league needs to step in and protect players from themselves. They should be forced to wear some type of mask, whether it be the clear plastic shield or the gridded helmets.

Face shields are mandatory for college players. Why shouldn't they be so for professionals?

The arguments most commonly made against the plastic helmet is that it gets so hot inside the shield, so that you sweat a lot more. Also, peripheral vision is hurt. The gridded helmet, on the other hand, faces many complaints because of hampered visibility.

Well, tough.

If the players aren't mature enough to control their own sticks or their own gloves, they shouldn't be allowed to leave their faces unprotected.

Furthermore, even if the league cracks down on the high-sticking and fighting, errant pucks will still cause many injuries.

Unless they like people gazing at their toothless grins when they're interviewed after the games, It's not a manly thing; it's completely foolish.

Another benefit that the face shield would add is that it would limit fights in the NHL.

I'll admit that I enjoy a good boxing match on ice here and there, but dropping your gloves and trying to punch someone's nose through the back of his skull during a hockey game is ridiculous. It just doesn't belong.

Every other sport has strict rules against fighting. After all, America's Funniest Home Videos would have appreciated Derek Harper vs. Jo-Jo English last year in the NBA playoffs. However, the league was completely embarrassed by the skirmish (which took place right in front of the commissioner), so the NBA cut down on fighting even more.

Hockey condones the garbage--five minutes in the penalty box for reducing someone to pulp? Heck, some guys use it as a good rest time.

Professional goons would have a harder time punching at metal bars or plastic shields. It would be tougher on their knuckles, and the league could easily eject anyone who willingly removes his helmet for fight-night.

If their knuckles give, then, well, they might have to find another job. Sorry, Tie Domi.

Hockey is a fast-paced sport, and the rushes of adrenaline can often cause people to lose their emotion and get into fight. But there is no excuse.

Likewise, the fast pace of the sport will cause many accidents. It's just that some of them can be avoided.

Mandatory face shields will kill two ugly birds with one stone.

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