Grandfather clause in the helmet rule (NHL)

Years ago, I believe the early nineties, there was an ancient veteran on the New York Rangers who did not wear a helmet. One friend would always comment “grandfather clause in the helmet rule” when he came on the ice. So I would occasionally use this as a catchphrase for throwbacks in general, as it tickled my fancy for no real reason.

A couple years ago, a different friend (who is a hardcore hockey fan) set me straight by saying “there was no grandfather clause in the helmet rule…stop saying that!”

So I’m reading Sports Illustrated this week and in an article about eye injuries, they recommend adopting a new visor rule, that would be mandatory for rookies but would grandfather in veterans who didn’t want to wear one, just like the helmet rule grandfathered in veterans when it was adopted in 1979.

Before I bring it up, I would really like to know who that Ranger was. He was, I believe, the last active NHL player who exploited the grandfather clause in the helmet rule. I am only 90% sure he was a Ranger.

Anybody know his name? He had curly hair, I think.

Sounds like Craig MacTavish to me. According to this site he was the last in the NHL.

There certainly was a grandfather clause in the helmet rule. Guy Lafleur almost never wore a helmet his entire career. He tried it once or twice but never felt comfortable with it. He retired in the early 80s (although there was an unsuccessful comeback attempt a couple years later) so he certainly wasn’t the last such player.

SWEET! That is exactly the guy; I recognized the name immediately. Sorry if you found it with a simple google search…I figured it would take me forever to dredge it up, and besides, I wanted to share my little anecdote. :slight_smile:

Thanks much, Nanoda.

Your hardcore hockey fan friend is wrong. There was a grandfather clause adopted in 1979, as noted. BTW, I’m all for one being adopted for visors as in the SI article. Watching Brian Berard kicking his legs while a huge pool of blood gathered around his face after a high sticking incident 4-5 years ago pretty much made up my mind on that point.

Was it that long ago already? I remember the Berard thing as being 2 seasons ago…but that could just be because of how deeply it was burned into my memory.

I am also in favor of a visor rule, even before reading the SI article. Seems a no-brainer.

Football may have the most injuries, but Hockey has far and away the most wounds.

We need a thread on hockey wounds.

Who was the goalie who had his carotid artery in his neck cut open by a skate blade? Normally it would spell death, but someone was on hand that knew how to stop the bleeding from this major artery.

(I’m a few teeth short, and a few scars heavy thanks to ice hockey.)

Wasn’t that Clint Malachuk?

Craig MacTavish is currently the head coach for the Edmonton Oilers. I always thought he was nuts for playing without a helmet.

BTW, I play hockey and I never use anything less than a full cage even in practice. I learned the hard way after losing 3 teeth to a high stick.

The NHL helmet rule is meaningless, since technically players can wear anything that’s harder than an eggshell and call it a helmet. It’s supposed to be a helmet approved by the Rules Committee but at present the Committee will allow anything, even if it doesn’t conform to a proper CSA standard.

The helmet Wayne Gretzky wore throughout his career offered about as much protection as a baseball cap. He’s lucky he was so hard to hit.

By comparison, minor hockey invariably requires CSA-approved helmets and visors/face shields, and the result, at least in Canadian minor hockey, has been an almost complete elimination of eye injuries. Since the adoption of proper face shield standards, blinding accidents in Canadian minor hockey have gone from like 300 a year to one or two a year (which invariably involve a player not wearing his visor or helmet properly.) The fact that the NHL won’t force players to wear basic protective equipment is a travesty.

Malarchuk was cut in a goal mouth collision between Steve Tuttle and Uwe Krupp. Never saw so much blood in my entire life. Here’s a link.

Must be a curse against Sabres goalies because Mika Noronen, their current netminder, missed a start recently when he was cut in the neck by Chris Drury’s skate in their morning workout. The 2 inch gash required several stitches but Noronen returned to finish practice. The trainers reevaluated the injury later in the day and decided to hold him out of that evening’s game against Detroit.

There was a period back in the early to mid 90s where the helmet rule was relaxed. AFAI remember only Greg Smythe took his lid off at that time.

I don’t agree. Have you ever watched NCAA hockey? Those players have to wear a helmet and shield or cage, and then they go around carrying their sticks shoulder high because they feel that they are invincible. That feeling has taken a great deal of resepct out of the game. Most players will tell you that there were fewer stick injuries and fewer things like the Marty McSorley cheapshot when players didn’t wear helmets. Of course, the finest helmet on the market isn’t going to help the player that gets hit from behind into the boards. The league has things that are more important than helmets to worry about. The players are all adults, not necessesarily mature, and they have all seen what happend to Berard (would a shield have helped him?) and to Wilson last year, and to Boucher earlier this season.

One more thing about Berard - after the incident too many people were saying that shields need to be mandatory, but nobody seemed to mention that if players would keep their sticks on the ice, there would be fewer of these incidents to worry about. Personally, that would be a change that I would make to the NHL - a penalty if your stick is used for anything other than passing or shooting the puck, anything.

I remember reading that 3 or 4 people in the crowd at that game had heart attacks.

I was at that game. What an awful experience seeing that poor fellow doing the funky chicken on the ice.

The worst injury I ever saw was at a Dallas Stars game. One player (Joe Nieuwendyk, IIRC) lost his footing, fell forward, and kicked his legs up in the air. As it turned out, during the fall his skate caught the defenseman behind him across the mouth.

Hilarity did NOT ensue.

Then, of course, there’s Paul Kariya, who lost (I believe) 6 teeth thanks to one strategically-placed high stick, which went up under his visor. As I recall, though, he toughed it out and finished the game, which I found odd seeing as he’s never struck me as a hockey ironman. Kariya’s more of the “GQ Model” hockey player.

If you mean the NHL, there’s no evidence at all that that is true, and in any case part of the reason they still HAVE head and face injuries is that the helmets they’re wearing are ridiculously inadequate.

Whether or not proper face protection reduces facial and eye injuries is not a matter of debate. It is an absolute, unquestionable fact, proven through actual results over decades of experience. The introduction of face shields to minor hockey in Canada has prevented something like seven thousand blinding injuries over the last three decades; the rate of partial or full blinding injuries is now about half of one percent of what it once was.

Or, you mentioned the NCAA; they adopted a rule requiring certified face shields in 1979; the rule immediately reduced eye injuries in NCAA hockey by approximately NINETY-NINE PERCENT. The very odd injury that does occur only occurs when a visor is not properly worn.

The fact is that if the NHL required players to wear certified helmets AND visors, eye injuries would essentially cease to exist. Bryan Berard would not have been injured at all, nor would Philippe Boucher have been injured, nor would Landon Wilson have been injured, nor would Mike Modano have been injured, or any number of guys. It is virtually impossible to suffer an eye injury while wearing certified face protection. I work in this industry. I’ve seen them tested, and I’m telling you that if you’re properly wearing a certified visor, your eyes cannot possibly be injured in a hockey game. They work.

Of course it is. You don’t think wearing a certified helmet will make a bad head injury less likely if you’re hit from behind? Of course it will. You can still be badly hurt, but saying a helmet won’t improve your chances is exactly akin to saying wearing seat belts won’t make you safer in your car because some people are still injured while wearing seat belts.

False dillemma. Why can’t the league address proper safety gear? Are they so short of resources that nobody at the NHL’s head office has a spare minute to deal with it?


Maybe you didn’t see the incident when Berard was hit with the stick, but he was hit by Marian Hossa’s stick while Hossa was in the act of shooting. Hossa turned and took a wild slap shot, not knowing Berard was hovering right over the puck, and Berard was hit on the follow-through.

Furthermore, two of the other serious incidents you mentioned didn’t involve sticks at all; Wilson and Boucher were hit with pucks, so unless you’re going to ban pucks, whaddya gonna do about those?

Your rule change likely would have made no difference. But had Berard been wearing a certified face guard, he wouldn’t have even been scratched - nor would Wilson, Boucher or Modano have been injured. I’m all for tougher penalties for all types of high sticking, but that would just reduce eye injuries, maybe. Proper face guards would exterminate eye injuries almost completely.

Ask Travis Roy how much his helmet and full shield helped him. Ask the kid I used to go to high school with (in a wheelchair for 18 years) how big a help they were. Sure, they aren’t brain damaged, but again, the finest helmet isn’t going to protect your spine. Why do they now make the little kids wear jerseys with stop signs on the back?

NHL players are old enough to weigh the risks and make their choices as far as their eyes are concerned. Would I play without shield? Hell no, personally I think that is very stupid.

I think you were missing my point about the use of sticks. I know Berard was injured on the follow through. Unless he was wearing a full shield there was a chance that the injury was going to happen anyway judging by the sharp angle that the stick came up at. My point was, that if players are going to be made to wear full armour, then the sticks will be carried higher than they should. That is what happened in the NCAA.

Protective equipment is only part of the issue. The attitude of players towards one another is much more imortant IMO.

I think his elusiveness is not what kept him from being hurt. Most of his playing time was back in the day when hockey was a different animal. If anybody had gouged his eyes, even accidentally, back in his Oilers days, the Oilers enforcers would have exacted a hefty retribution.

So, no more poke checks? That’s like banning all contact with QB’s because of what happened to Vick and Pennington. It would completely alter the game for the worse.

Travis Roy wasn’t hit from behind.

That said, if you’re checked from behind into the boards, you’re far less likely to take a face full of the corner where they meet if you’re wearing a full face visor than you are without that visor. No saftey gear can solve all problems, but a full face visor would certainly solve a lot of them.