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Alexeev's eye injury puts focus on visors
All NHL players should wear the devices, Lightning GM Feaster says.
By DAMIAN CRISTODERO
Published September 24, 2006
Considering how scary it looked when Nikita Alexeev took a stick blade to his right eye Friday in Detroit, the outcome could not have been much better.
The Lightning right wing has an abrasion of the cornea, general manager Jay Feaster said Saturday, and is expected to be out just seven to 10 days.
"It is not believed to be serious," Feaster said.
Alexeev was hurt by Tomas Holmstrom's high-sticking with 3:28 left in the third period of a 5-4 overtime loss to the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena.
Alexeev could not open his eye as he left the locker room and stayed overnight at the Detroit Medical Center with Lightning assistant trainer Jason Serbus.
Alexeev was examined Saturday in Tampa by team eye doctor Charles Slonim, Feaster said.
Alexeev, 24, the No. 8 overall pick of the 2000 draft who was having a successful training camp after playing last season in Russia, was not wearing a visor on the ice.
It is about time the use of visors became mandatory, Feaster said, and the NHL and players association should have made it part of the new collective bargaining agreement.
"Every guy in the NHL should be wearing one," Feaster said. "I think it is a serious omission in this collective bargaining agreement. It seems to me this was the perfect opportunity as a league to say that players coming into the league, starting with the new CBA, will have to wear them."
The American Hockey League did just that.
For the first time this season, all AHL players must wear visors. League president Dave Andrews said the rule was sparked by an injury this past season to Portland's Jordan Smith.
The star prospect of the NHL's Anaheim Mighty Ducks was struck by a deflected puck and had to retire at age 20 when he lost sight in his lacerated left eye.
"That was one of a number of career-ending injuries we've had over the last decade or so that would have been preventable had players worn face protection," Andrews said.
After Smith's injury, Andrews said, he met with representatives of the players association and consulted with Mike Stuart, USA Hockey's chief medical director.
"We were able to build a strong case from a safety perspective, from a research perspective and from the perspective of players coming into our league," Andrews said.
Andrews admitted not all players were on board.
"The opposition you face is the history of our game and the sense that players should have a choice, and, secondly, it's sort of a badge of honor not to wear one," he said.
As for what Andrews called the performance argument, "That is very difficult to sustain.
"Many of the best players in the world wear visors. And many players who achieved what they had to to get to the American Hockey League (from juniors, Europe or college) wore visors when they accomplished it. So, from a logical perspective, it was a fairly simple case to build."
The league's decision was not subject to players association approval, Andrews said. Even so, he said, "push-back has been minimal."
The NHL's collective bargaining agreement prohibits the league from such a unilateral move.
The time to build a consensus was during negotiations on the CBA that ended the lockout, Feaster said.
"We missed an opportunity, in my mind," he said. "I know there were bigger fish to fry, but if we had taken a step coupled with what the American League is doing, we may have gotten to the point that we would have had a higher degree of players wearing them."
A Hockey News survey in October 2005 reported 244 of 640 NHL skaters, about 38 percent, wore visors.
If Feaster has his way, there will be at least one more.
"I can promise you, we will be recommending and strongly encouraging Nikita to put one on," he said.
"Hopefully, this incident will have him receptive to doing that."
Nine players were cut, reducing the number in camp to 29:
Pos . Name Assignment
LW Zdenek Blatny Springfield (AHL) training camp
D Sylvain Dufresne Springfield (AHL) training camp
D Doug O'Brien Springfield (AHL) training camp
C Eric Healey Springfield (AHL) training camp
C Blair Jones Springfield (AHL) training camp
RW Marek Kvapil Springfield (AHL) training camp
D Vladimir Mihalik Prince George (WHL)
G Karri Ramo Springfield (AHL) training camp
D Geoff Waugh Springfield (AHL) training camp
SCHEDULE (subject to change)
TODAY: Pregame skate, 10 a.m.
MONDAY: Practice, 11 a.m.
TUESDAY: Practice, 11 a.m.
WEDNESDAY: Off, camp moves to St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa