While his peers overwhelmingly endorse a major change to the rules about protective head gear, University of Wisconsin men's hockey coach Mike Eaves is slightly torn.
At meetings next month in Indianapolis, the NCAA Ice Hockey Rules Committee is planning to formally recommend a switch from full face shields to three-quarter visors on helmets.
The proposal will be forwarded to the Committee on Competitive Safeguards and, if approved, would be passed on to the Playing Rules Oversight Panel for final consideration.
"People are hopeful," Eaves said after returning from the American Hockey Coaches Association meetings in Florida, where the topic picked up momentum.
The change in head gear has long been sought by college coaches because of the belief it will reduce incidents of reckless behavior by players, thus helping to create a safer environment.
Eaves said wearing full shields lends to the notion of fearlessness, which gives way to players carrying their sticks higher and more dangerously.
The NCAA has long stood firm against change, apparently due to liability concerns, but a recent study indicates removing full face shields would decrease the risk of head injuries.
"It would bring sanity to the game," Eaves said.
"It would increase players' respect for each other," said Andy Hrodey, the athletic trainer for the UW men's team.
Eaves, who played eight seasons in the NHL, recalled putting on a full shield for a pickup game involving his two adult sons and the feeling of invincibility that ensued.
"You go hell-bent for election," he said.
But switching to a three-quarter shield — which is used in every major international league for players 18 and older, including the NHL — is not without concern, according to Eaves.
If the three-quarter visor isn't worn properly to cover the face, an errant stick could cause serious eye and mouth injuries. He believes that if the smaller shield is adopted at the college level, then all players should be required to wear mouth guards.
Mouth guards are required now, according to Hrodey, but some players don't wear them and game officials are lax in enforcing the rule.
All UW players are fitted for mouth guards "and I enforce it as much as I can," Hrodey said.
Players who don't wear mouth guards tend to do so because it's harder to communicate on the ice while wearing one, but Eaves said safety should take precedence if college hockey decides to change its approach to face shields.
"If you don't wear the visor right — down over your nose — and you get a stick up in the face you could get a serious eye injury or lose some teeth," he said. "Mouth guards should be mandatory."