Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin is not only one of the best players in the NHL, he’s also one of the most colorful. Wearing skates with bright yellow laces, Ovechkin has a unique style, which he exhibits in both his celebrations and hockey equipment.
During his illustrious career, Ovechkin’s worn skates with hand-painted sheep during the Olympics. He’s also worn gloves that have tributes to his late brother Sergei. Ovechkin even once wore a mirrored and tinted visor when he first arrived, but nearly a decade ago he stopped wearing it.
“Tinted visor is just my style,” Ovechkin said in a Hockey News Q&A in December 2005. “I only wear it for that reason”
A year later in October 2006, the mirrored visor disappeared. The Washington Post’s Tarik El-Bashir asked Ovechkin about it.
Tarik El-Bashir: Alex, where is your mirrored visor?
Alex Ovechkin: I’m wearing this one. (He pointed to the rather mundane smoked visor attached to his helmet.)
Tarik El-Bashir: No, I’m talking about the really cool one, the one that made you look like RoboCop.
Alex Ovechkin: I don’t know.
Tarik El-Bashir: Did the NHL ask you to stop wearing it?
Alex Ovechkin: No.
Tarik El-Bashir: Are you lying to me?
Ovechkin didn’t answer. He just smiled. It was the kind of smile that said, ‘Hey, you’re on to something. But I’m not saying.’
El-Bashir reported that the NHL’s marketing gurus did not like the visor because it hid Ovechkin’s face. Legendary goaltender Martin Brodeur complained to the league that the visor gave Ovechkin a competitive advantage because he could not see his eyes.
“It’s been discussed at the manager level and discussed with the union,” McPhee said. “At some point, we’re going have to come up with some sort of [official] ruling. But I don’t think there’s anything in place at this point.”
During June of 2006, the league’s GMs voted on the issue and ruled 29-1 against allowing the mirrored visors. McPhee was the only GM who voted in favor, supporting the individuality of his star player.
But that didn’t mean the mirrored visor was officially outlawed in the NHL rulebook. The rule would have to go through the NHLPA to officially be ratified. Ovechkin stopped wearing it anyway.
Last week, when the The Globe and Mail published unsealed documents from the NHL, there was one that covered the minutes from a June 15, 2007 meeting of the Competition Committee. The meeting, held in the NHL’s Toronto office, had Ovechkin’s mirrored visor still as part of the agenda. There were 14 people who participated in the meeting:
Here was their discussion, on page 18 of this linked document. Some of it is bizarre.
Colin Campbell asks what he should do about tinted/mirrored visors? He does not understand why anyone would need one. Alexander Ovechkin wears one.
Marty Turco and Rob Blake agree that they never look at other players’ eyes. They do not feel there is any competitive advantage. It is more of a style thing.
Gary Bettman states that players are not allowed to wear these visors at IIHF events and do not seem to complain, so why do we allow them in the NHL?
Ian Penny wonders why the League would want to detract from something that Ovechkin feels is good for the way he plays/his image. He notes that there has not been an explosion of these Visors.
Kevin Lowe asks what if someone were to wear a bright colored visor. Does this undermine the integrity of the uniform?
Stu Grimson states that the NFL allows its players to wear tinted visors, why shouldn’t the NHL?
Bill Daly states that the major concern is with visors that are too colorful.
Colin Campbell notes that the League probably could have outlawed them under the rule book from day one. Stu Grimson responds that this ability has been waived.
Colin Campbell states that if there is not an appetite to get rid of them, then so be it.
Don Waddell notes that this is only true of tinted visors, mirrored visors are still not allowed. Even the tinted visors cannot be too dark. He notes that they agreed at the last Competition Committee meeting that you had to be able to see a player’s eyes through them from reasonably close.
Stu Grimson asks if there is a specific distance from which we have to be able to see the player’s eyes? Don Waddell responds there is not.
It’s interesting that the players, Marty Turco and Rob Blake, went against Brodeur’s complaints and said that they did not believe the shield gave Ovechkin an advantage.
Also, despite Waddell’s comments, there are still to this day, no official condemnations or mentions of a mirrored visor being illegal in the NHL rulebook.
In a 2010 NHL/IIHF Rules Comparison document, tinted visors are said to be not permitted in the IIHF. But in the NHL, there is “no such provision.”
Visors, in general, did however get grandfathered in and made mandatory during the 2013-14 season for all players “who have fewer than 25 games of NHL experience.”
There is this broad mention in the equipment section, rule 9.8, about how with doctor’s permission, a player could wear a different shield.
A mask or protector of a design approved by the League may be worn by a player who has sustained a facial injury.
In the first instance, the injured player shall be entitled to wear any protective device prescribed by the Club doctor. If any opposing Club objects to the device, it may record its objection with the Commissioner.
Via Joseph B.
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