It's a forgotten issue of the game that came up time and again while players were on the ice. A volatile subject that routinely gets dismissed by the "macho" group that don't mind the risks.
...or think of the fact they could be maimed for life.
Facemasks / face shields are an issue that had been debated by fans and officials alike over the past several years after we saw horrific accidents on ice involving pucks and high-sticks to the face on several NHL players. The risk of permanent injury was given a name when we saw Bryan Berard's up-and-coming career come crashing down.
The NHLFA fan report in 1999 showed an overwhelming Machismo support of non-facemask play for NHL players, but after Berards injury, that tune changed as the 2000 fan report showed a much more narrow divide between face-shield proponents and opponents.
While the risk of facial injury is real, some players refuse to believe that facemasks or faceshields will prevent injuries. Witness this comment from Bill Gadsby taken from the Detroit News:
I think its the helmets and facemasks, said Gadsby, who was a hard-rock defenseman in his 20 NHL seasons. The players look like they want to hurt each other. They dont have respect for the other player.
Though I have to admit, an out-of-context quote that was compiled for an article on slashing does look a little iffy, suggesting Gadsby might not approve of protective gear, I do still find it absurd that protective gear can be targeted as a cause for escalating physical play on ice.
With all the other changes to the game that are ongoing during CBA talks, should face protection be on of the stipulations by ownership? Or tossed aside as a concession to the players? Ownership has an obligation to protect it's investments from injuries, and if facial gear can be grandfathered in - it shouldn't be looked as a bad thing.
Unfortunately the facial-protection issue will likely be forgotten or unaddressed in the new CBA, much like the Designated Hitter position has remained an unaddressed issue in Collective Bargaining talks between baseball and it's own Players Union for years, but that is a very different story.