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Despite accident, P-Bruins remain mixed on shields
By BOB DICK
Journal Sports Writer
PROVIDENCE -- Why don't professional hockey players wear protective face shields? The answer is simple. It's a macho thing. They don't want to look like sissies.
When hockey players come out of college, or juniors, where face protectors are mandatory, they can't wait to discard ``those awful shields,'' says Providence Bruins forward Peter Ferraro, who helped Maine win an NCAA title in the 1992-93 season.
``They can't wait to finally look like a professional hockey player,'' Ferraro said while discussing the aftermath of the horrific eye injury suffered by Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Bryan Berard when he was struck by the stick of Ottawa's Marian Hossa Saturday night. That accident may cost the 23-year-old former Mount St. Charles star his career and the sight in his right eye.
``I won't lie to you, 90 percent of the reason why guys don't wear those visors is the macho thing,'' said Ferraro. ``If you're going to play hard and be chippy the way I tend to play, then guys look down on you about wearing a half shield. And they mention it to you on the ice. But, you know what? It doesn't matter what other guys think. It's your career, it's your face. If it saves you one time, who cares what people say?''
Ferraro says the Berard accident has him definitely thinking about wearing a visor.
``I just might throw one on and see what its like and how it works for me,'' Ferraro said.
Some say even if Berard had been wearing a half shield visor, it is likely that Hossa's stick, because of the angle it was coming from, would have found its way underneath the shield.
Rather than the macho thing, most players say they don't wear the shields because it hinders their vision. They say perspiration often causes the shields to fog up.
Regardless, Berard's tragic injury has made hockey players from Providence to Portland, Ore., think about how fleeting a hockey career can be. That because of the speed of the game, the strength of the players involved and the weapons at their disposal (sticks and vulcanized rubber pucks) career-ending injuries can occur at any second.
The Berard incident was the topic of discussion in the P-Bruins locker room after yesterday's practice. And although every player feels incredible sympathy toward Berard, not many were prepared to don a facial shield.
``I like having the option to wear it or not,'' said Providence forward Jay Henderson. ``I'm not going to wear one.''
Rugged winger Jeremy Brown has had some close calls, getting hit with sticks and pucks near his right eye. He also said he doesn't want to wear a shield.
It is the belief of most of the Providence players that if the NHL or AHL mandated the use of face shields, sticks would be carried even higher and there would be even more tragic consequences.
But, there are some, like Ferraro, who are rethinking the issue.
Nick Boynton, Boston's No. 1 draft pick last year, is one. He remembers playing against Berard when both were in the Ontario Hockey League four years ago.
``He was awsome back then,'' recalled Boynton. ``We played his team (Detroit) twice that year and he scored three goals against us in one game.''
But like Berard, once he was out of juniors Boynton couldn't wait for the chance to shed his shield. He played without it this year, his first as a professional, until he got into a fight in January and suffered a broken left orbital bone. He's been been wearing the protective shield since.
``Now, with what has happened to Bryan, I'm not sure what I'll do,'' said Boynton, who is due to return to the Providence lineup this weekend after being out since Feb. 26 with a sprained MCL. ``It's scary to think what can happen. I haven't made my decision yet. If this hadn't happened to him, I know I wouldn't think twice about not using the visor.''
Jason Krog, the Hobey Baker winner last year at UNH, is wearing a half shield visor since getting cut under his left eye earlier in the year. He also suffered a broken jaw while he was playing for Lowell.
``I don't know what it is,'' he said. ``Maybe it's my size, but my head always seems low, and when I'm digging for pucks I catch sticks in the face area, so I probably will keep it on, or at least see how things go. I used a full visor in college, so it wasn't tough to get used to.''
Krog said what happened to Berard hasn't influenced his decision but, he added, ``It makes me feel better about having one on. And I really believe that what happened to him will make some people think.''
But not Joel Prpic, Providence's 6-foot-7 center. He tried wearing a shield for a week a short time ago when he suffered a crack in his right orbital bone.
``I wore the cage in college, and I tried the shield here, but I couldn't wait to get it off,'' he said. ``I feel horrible for Bryan and his family, but for me personally, its not going to change my mind about wearing the shield. Every time you step on the ice, you take a risk. You put your body in harm's way. It goes with the territory.''
© 2000 The Providence Journal Company