It wasn’t a pretty picture on Monday night as Philadelphia Flyers defenceman Chris Pronger took a stick to the outside of his right eye. He was racing for a puck with Toronto’s Mikhail Grabovski and, as Grabovski slapped after the puck, the stick connected with Pronger’s and the blade came right up in the Flyers’ face.
“He was hit on the side, and there’s a lot of swelling,” Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said. “The hope is that there’s not a lot of blood buildup there where it will create issues.”
Pronger’s agonizing screams could be heard almost around the world and he skated straight to the bench, hands over his eyes. ”I knew he was in trouble and needed help,” said Danny Briere.
The captain will miss two to three weeks of action and will be on bed rest for the next couple of days until the swelling goes down. After that, the doctors can get in there and properly see what’s going on.
“I think he was very scared and rightly so,” Holmgren said. “When something like that happens to your eye, you’re worried about what’s going on. I think he settled down over a period of time and was fine when he left.”
Pronger noted that he had blurred vision after the incident.
Holmgren said that Pronger would not be cleared to play unless he returns to action with a visor, raising the debate yet again as to whether they should be mandatory. Some players say that visors interfere with their vision on the ice, but several players have had serious injuries after shots or hits to the face.
“When Chris comes back, he’ll be wearing a visor,” Holmgren said. “We made it mandatory in the American Hockey League. To me, it’s not an issue – players should wear them. Obviously, some of these guys have been around a long time and for whatever reason they don’t want to wear one. I think the improvements with the visor over the last number of years, compared to what it was 10 or 15 years ago, are tremendous. Other than getting a little sweat on there sometimes, or maybe a little water, I don’t think the visor is a big issue.”
Grabovski, it should be noted, was not penalized on the play because the incident happened as the result of the follow-through from a shot.
Perhaps the most stunning thing of it all was to see such a monster player, a paragon of control and power on the ice, in such a state. Let’s face facts: Chris Pronger was in a state of panic. And who wouldn’t be? An injury to the eye can end a career in an instant and it was perhaps little more than luck that prevented Pronger from suffering something more serious.
With visors mandatory in the AHL and at most minor league levels of play, perhaps we won’t be having a visor debate in five or ten years. Perhaps their existence will just be a foregone conclusion, a part of the game like helmets and masks for goalies. After all, a significant majority of NHLers currently wear them – including 15 out of the 18 Flyers dressed for action on Monday night.
Visors are not a cure-all solution and Pronger does not deserve blame for what happened to him; it was a terrible accident and I hope he’s okay. But isn’t about time we revisit the visor issue with some clarity and integrity? Can we leave the reactionary “kids/girly” stuff elsewhere just this once?