To Todd Bertuzzi, it’s a personal matter. And it’s none of your business — or mine — if he chooses to uses a little common sense to protect his eyesight.
Bertuzzi’s sporting a black-and-blue welt under his left eye, the remnants of a scary incident in Tuesday night’s game against Dallas when Jamie Benn’s stick blade struck him in the face. But Bertuzzi wasn’t sporting a visor as the Wings hit the ice for practice Thursday for the first time since that game.
And when asked if he intended to wear a visor, he sure didn’t sound like he was.
“Did I wear one today?” he replied.
Well, no, but what about in a game?
“I don’t know,” Bertuzzi said. “It’s just something I’ve got to think about for a bit.”
But what’s there to think about, really?
As Wings coach Mike Babcock put, “”I just know life is long, and you’re going to spend a lot of time with your family after. … I mean, it takes you a week to get used to (wearing) it.”
For the life of me, and I’ve had this conversation with countless NHL players over the years — from Steve Yzerman and Nick Lidstrom to Chris Chelios and Chris Pronger, all of whom eventually donned a visor — I’ve never understand the stubborn refusal to join what is now the majority in wearing some sort of protective shield. (By my count, Bertuzzi’s one of only a half-dozen holdouts on the Wings’ roster right now.)
I’ve heard all the arguments against it — obscured vision, fog warnings, fighting impediment, and so on. For years, we also heard it was a sign of weakness — “Most of the guys that wear them are Europeans and French guys,” Don Cherry once famously said — while also promoting reckless play, which studies have since proven to be false.
Mostly, though, they come back to Bertuzzi’s response Thursday, when questions persisted about what he rightly insists is a “personal decision.”
“I don’t ask you what kind of pencil you use,” Bertuzzi said. “It’s our office, and we wear what we want to wear. Guys wear different shoulder pads, different helmets, different skates — that’s just how it is. It’s an option we’re given and some guys don’t want to use it.”
When it was later pointed out that none of us actually use pencils anymore, Bertuzzi laughed and added a joke about the media perhaps needing to rethink that trend. We could use a good eraser or two with all the mistakes we make, or something like that.
Make no mistake, though. Bertuzzi, who’ll turn 38 next month, knows he’s rolling the dice with his own vision. I asked him if he’d ever had a scare similar to the one he endured Tuesday, and he recalled the scratched cornea he suffered as a rookie playing for the Islanders. (“Had to wear a patch for two weeks,” he said.) And he admits he insists on the 11-year-old, hockey-playing son in his household wearing a visor. He even agrees with those who say the NHL needs to make the use of visors mandatory, provided it’s done as it was with helmets back in 1979, with a grandfather clause for current players.
“It’s a no-brainer,” he said. “I think all the kids coming up, anyone coming into the league the past 4-5 years, it should be mandatory to have it. … I think eventually when us older guys get out of the league, it should be mandated that everybody wears one.”
Just don’t tell him he has to, though.