Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Here's a Stick in Your Eye Shields Stop Injuries, but Are Optional in the Nhl

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Here's a Stick in Your Eye Shields Stop Injuries, but Are Optional in the Nhl

Article excerpt

It took a stick in the face to open Eric Weinrich's eyes.

Now whenever you see the Blackhawks defenseman on the ice, he's wearing a shield to protect his eyes.

But in the macho world of the National Hockey League, shields are strictly optional equipment, and the large majority of the players prefers to play it free and easy - no matter what the risk. "My wife and my dentist would like to see me wear a shield," said defenseman Gary Suter, who sports a gash on his cheek and a black eye. "I guess us hockey players don't change something until we have to, or until it's too late. It doesn't make a lot of sense, but I don't plan on putting a mask on. I'm sure medically it would be a lot smarter to wear one." Weinrich got scared into wearing a shield again, and he now has no intentions of playing without one. When he came to the Hawks in 1993, it was an unwritten rule that no one wore a shield. You had to be tough to be a Blackhawk. Then, last season, Weinrich suffered a cut eye and missed three games. "Not knowing anything about eye injuries when I first got hit, and not seeing for three or four hours after it happened, that really scared me," said Weinrich. "At least it was an excuse to wear it. The doctor said if I had another injury like that, I could suffer a detached retina, so that's not something I want to spend the rest of my life with. "It doesn't bother me that much playing, and I don't mind listening to the guys say things about it. I've gotten hit in the face and around the eyes a lot this year. Maybe if I didn't have it on, something worse could have happened." Most players complain that a shield fogs up or restricts their vision. But there's no arguing the benefits of wearing one. The New Jersey Devils recently lost Doug Gilmour for two games after a puck hit him in the eye. When he returns to action this week, he'll be wearing a shield. "It's just like (players) not wearing helmets for so long," said Weinrich. "Eventually more guys got a little more educated about what a helmet can do for you. "I don't think it's going to change many guys' mind about wearing a shield, because it's kind of a feeling you get when you don't wear a helmet when you ride a motorcycle. A freer feeling. It's a macho thing." Ulf Dahlen is the only other Hawk who sports a shield; he has worn one his entire career because you have to wear one in Sweden. But while Dahlen and Weinrich may be in the minority regarding that piece of equipment, everyone is in agreement that helmets are a hockey players' most important safety device. "The speed of the game is a lot greater than it was, and the size of the players is always increasing," Weinrich said. "No matter what you do to protect yourself from a hit, sometimes you're going to be in a position you can't protect yourself from hitting the ice or the boards. …

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