Dale Weise has one of the hardest jobs in hockey.
As a fourth-liner for the Canucks, he plays less than 10 minutes and gets on the ice for about 15 shifts per game.
Part of the job is to be as physical as possible with whichever of the opposition’s lines he’s facing, and to be available to drop the gloves and throw punches at an opponent whenever necessary.
For that reason — his role as an occasional fighter — the Canucks’ right winger says he won’t wear a visor. It’s partly about professional courtesy (avoiding broken knuckles on Plexiglas) and partly about reducing his own risk.
But here’s the kicker — and this speaks volumes about a league that says it cares about player safety while continuing to allow fighting — Weise says he would don a visor instantly if he progressed to becoming a third-line player.
The use of visors in the NHL has become a hot topic since the league’s Competition Committee — comprised of its stakeholders — recommended that visors be mandatory for all new players and those who have played fewer than 26 games.
The serious eye injury to Rangers defenceman Marc Staal this season certainly ignited the conversation, but a similar mishap suffered by Canucks centre Manny Malhotra two years ago may have got it started.
“If I was playing in a bigger role and playing more minutes, I’d put one on for sure,” Weise told The Province. “In that fourth line role, you’re getting targeted by other guys. If you’re not playing on the fourth line, then you’re not going to have as many opportunities to fight.”
Weise may get there — he’s still a young and improving player at 24 — but for now he’ll keep the windshield off. Sometimes players who wear visors take their helmets off — through mutual consent — before they fight, but Weise believes that’s even more dangerous.
“You’re better off with a helmet on when you fall on the ice during a fight,” Weise said. “It saves you two ways. You get to keep your helmet on when you don’t have a visor. And as a defence mechanism, getting punched in the side of the head it takes a little bit of the blow and the same thing if you fall on the ice. With a visor, and you’ve got to take it off, I think you’re in more danger.”
Weise said he agreed with the recommendation — which is expected to be adopted for next season, but allows current players to not use a visor if they choose.
Currently, 73 per cent of NHL players wear visors, but that will rise rapidly. There will also be a discussion of transition rules around this, including a look at the minor penalty currently called when a player wearing a visor instigates a fight.
Weise said he thinks that rule will have to be changed, but he doesn’t believe fighting will vanish.
“I think fighting is always going to have a spot in the game, but with the visor rule it’s going to go down,” he said.
Despite the cautionary tales, some NHL players resist the change.
Former Canuck Tanner Glass wore one in junior and college, but doesn’t want to feel obliged to take his helmet off in a fight. And he likes the feel of no visor.
“I’m a bit old-school,” he said. “I’m actually more into the game when I don’t have one on. I feel like the game is right there, as opposed to being behind the glass.”
For Canucks prospect Brendan Gaunce, 19, the new guidelines mean he won’t have a choice about visors, but he had no intention of changing from what he’s done in minor and junior hockey.
“I would have 100 per cent worn a visor,” said Gaunce. “I’ve had the visor save me a few times, even just in practice where a puck goes off the cross-bar or it gets deflected in front.
“It’s a good rule to put in place and I think it will help prevent injuries.”