I absolutely cringe every time I see a player suffer a serious eye injury. It is probably the scariest injury in all of hockey.
High sticks and flying pucks to face happen all too often in hockey. Name dropping could be an endless task, but here's just a few examples.
Some of the luckier players to get away with "only" suffering diminished vision include Bryan Berard, Mattias Ohlund, Steve Yzerman, Saku Koivu, Anders Hedberg, Kevin Smyth, Phillippe Boucher, and, depending on what doctors say in the coming weeks, Colin White.
Others have lost their careers to eye injuries. Players such as Al MacInnis, Pierre Mondou, Jeff Libby, Ryan McGill, Mark Deyell, Hector Marini, Jamie Hislop, Jean Hamel, and Glen Sharpley.
Bylaw 12:6 of the National Hockey League forbids players who are sightless in one eye from playing in the NHL. It states that players with one eye, or 3/60ths of normal vision, shall not be eligible to play for a member club. Loss of 75 percent of sight in an eye is required for insurance to take effect.
The regulation became known as the "Trushinski Bylaw" because of a major leaguer named Frank "Snoozer" Trushinski who played right defense for the Kitchener Greenshirts. According to NHL officials at the time, Trushinski lost sight in one eye due to a high stick in 1921. He came back and lost most of the sight in his other eye after fracturing his skull in another accident. The NHL didn't want that to risk having its players lose their eye sight and they didn't want to pay the high insurance costs, so they created Bylaw 12:6
Mrs. Trushinski once recalled her husband's problems several years after he died:
"A year or so before he lost his eye, his skull was fractured in a game against the Toronto Granites hockey team. He got along seeing, but not too well."
"All his life he had a film on his left eye, so he really had trouble after the puck hit his right eye; that was during a game in 1921 when a puck hit the eye. He never saw out of it again. He was able to work a long time, though, for Schneider's, a meat company in Kitchener, Ontario."
The Trushinski Bylaw became important in March 1939 when Toronto Maple Leafs left winger George Parsons lost his left eye in an injury during an NHL game at Maple Leaf Gardens against the Chicago Black Hawks.
"NHL president Frank Calder told me that I couldn't play in the NHL again" said Parsons, who was 25 at the time of forced retirement. "Calder said that the NHL governors wouldn't allow one eyed players in the league because of the Trushinski precedent. Calder said the NHL didn't want that happening again."
The ruling was challenged in June 1975 when forward Greg Neeld was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres of the NHL. Neeld had lost sight in one eye while playing amateur hockey in 1973.
Neeld felt he could play with his specially designed helmet, featuring the first visor in hockey, nicknamed the Neeld Shield. Neeld's lawyer Roy McMurtry threatened to sue the NHL when Neeld was kept out of the league because of the Trushinski Bylaw.
NHL governors voted 13-3 (with two abstentions) to continue to bar one-eyed players from the league. The league felt that it could not afford to insure Neeld and that his special helmet could cause injury to other players. Neeld ended up playing in the WHA, which did not bar one-eyed players.
As far as I understand it, the Trushinski Bylaw still exists, but it has been successfully challenged. The NHL changed its policy and allowed Bryan Berard to play. The difference here is advances in medical technology. Berard had been fitted with a special contact lens that gave him more sight than Neeld ever had.
I don't really want to weigh in on the mandatory visor rule debate. I understand the desire for choice, although I would think a grandfathered clause forcing all newcomers to the league to wear a protective shield.
Eye injuries and illnesses are of great concern to me. I suffer from glaucoma, a degenerative disease that unfortunately I've been forced to become an expert on. The loss of sight hits kind of close to home for me.
With that in mind, GreatestHockeyLegends.com like to take this time to announce the adoption of Canadian National Institute for the Blind as my official charity of choice.
I'm not going to ask you to donate any money, as that is your prerogative. I'm adopting a charity of choice more so to spread information and education about eye injuries and illnesses, and to inform about the services out there for people who may need it.
I'm also doing this because I believe hockey bloggers can make a difference. There's a number of top quality hockey blogs out there that have a significant and loyal following of readers. I'd like to think we as a blogging community can dig a little deeper than hockey and help out in a bigger cause that we believe in.
That's why I'm going to challenge other hockey bloggers to adopt a charity of their choosing. You don't have to put up a big story as to why you have chosen the charity you have, but somewhere on the main page of your blog I'd like to see some form of link or advertisement of a charity that you support.
Because hockey bloggers can make a difference.