Don't mess with safety

TERRY KOSHAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:47 AM ET

Imagine a time in the National Hockey League when something as sinister as the death stare of Hall of Famer Mark Messier is obscured.

Well, the man himself envisions such a day and went so far yesterday as to endorse the idea of full face shields for NHL players.

"Whether it's full face shields or faceguards, I would highly recommend that it become a mandatory piece of equipment," Messier said yesterday before joining a bunch of other slow-moving former NHLers on the ice at the Air Canada Centre for the annual Hall of Fame legends classic.

Messier doesn't buy the idea that less face gear means more recognition of players.

"To me it gets down to marketing our game," Messier said. "If they can market a NASCAR (driver), who is inside a car with a full face shield on ... I know who (driver) Jimmie Johnson is if he walks down this hallway. The best players in our league, like Sidney Crosby and Jarome Iginla, are wearing visors."

The final and biggest event of the Hall of Fame weekend is tonight, when Igor Larionov, Glenn Anderson, Ray Scapinello and the late Ed Chynoweth are inducted. The four (Chynoweth is being represented by his son Dean Chynoweth) received their Hall blazers during the legends game festivities.

If it sounds like Messier is on a safety kick, he is, but for good reasons. Messier is promoting the new Cascade CHX helmet, and wore one yesterday. Technology in making the helmet is said to provide the best protection possible against concussions. Messier is on Cascade's board, but he's not endorsing the helmet for commercial reasons.

"Prevention is the key right now," Messier said. "Concussions are in the headlines. We need to re-educate ourselves in protection."

The idea that NHL players wear face masks is a little far-fetched, considering many still eschew visors. But Messier's heart is in the right place. And he found it a bit ironic he was stressing safety the day after Maple Leafs defenceman Mike Van Ryn was hit from behind into the boards by the Canadiens' Tom Kostopoulos and suffered several injuries including a concussion.

"I'm not blaming anybody, not blaming the players who have been concussed, but you have to have the responsibility when you are on the ice to protect yourselves at all times and not take anything for granted, ever," Messier said. "When I played, nobody would be caught dead with their back turned facing the boards.

"But I would not say players are playing more dangerous, it's probably the opposite. Players are more mindful of what the rules are."


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