Maintain visors for clarity and safety

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Equipment Manager Doug Shearer enters his third season with the Anaheim Ducks and his 26th in the National Hockey League. A veteran of 2,143 NHL regular-season games as an equipment manager, Shearer logged his 2,000th game in a 6-3 Ducks win on Nov. 15, 2007 at Los Angeles.

Shearer joined the Ducks after serving as the head equipment manager for the Washington Capitals from 1983-2007. While with the Capitals, Shearer saw the club advance to the Stanley Cup Final during the 1997-98 season. He joined the Capitals organization at the start of the 1981-82 season, serving as the head trainer for the Hershey Bears, Washington’s primary affiliate of the American Hockey League

Shearer has served Team USA on several occasions as the head equipment manager, including the 2003 World Championship in the Czech Republic, the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City and the 1997 World Championship in Finland. In addition, he served as equipment manager for the 1999 NHL All-Star Game in Tampa, following Washington’s appearance in the Stanley Cup Final.

A native of Salisbury, N.C., Doug and his wife Carrie have two children: Zach and Amy. The family resides in Maryland. Shearer is a graduate of West Chester State College and holds a bachelor of science degree in health and physical education. In his spare time, Doug enjoys hunting and fishing.

Shearer took time to advise readers on the safety aspects of helmet visors. Do you monitor the condition of your players' visors? What sort of things do you do when you check visors for clarity and structural integrity?

"After pre-game skates and before every game, we go through every guy who wears a visor and clean the visor with an anti-fog treatment. If there are any scratches on the visor that are in the field of vision, we'll replace it. When we travel, we always make sure the visors are in a helmet bag to keep them from getting scratched. Mostly, we try to keep visors clean and avoid scratches."

-- Ducks Equipment Manager Doug Shearer on visor maintenance Tell us more about helmet bags. That's something players and parents can buy to extend the life of the visor, isn't it?

Shearer: Absolutely. You can use just about anything, even a hockey sock. Pull it over the helmet to protect the visor. The leading visor manufacturers make helmet bags that are specifically designed for the purpose. That will keep the visor from being nicked up in the bag by your skates or another piece of your equipment. Visors are expensive and you want to try to protect them. You can wrap your helmet and visor in a towel. Use anything that will work. You've had a couple of players this season suffer facial injuries and they use a kind of cage-type setup. Tell us about that.

Shearer: There are a couple of different options. Bauer makes a full shield that goes over the jaw and protects the whole face. There's another one that's clear and has a wire cage in front of the eyes. Or, you can use a solid, metal cage. It comes down to player preference, not just for vision but also how it 'breathes' how the air flows through so they don't get hot. What are some of the applications? How do they differ, depending on the injury?

Shearer: When a player receives a facial injury, we put them into one of these helmet-shield-cage combinations we talked about it. They're not used to wearing something like that so we want to make it as comfortable for the player as possible. We do a couple of different things. If it's a broken jaw, then we have to keep the shield away from the jaw and not resting on the chin. We'll use a j-clip and bring the shield out so it's far enough away from his face that it's not going to be banging away at his chin. If there's a cut on the face that we want to protect, there are chin cups that have a snap and hold tight on the face. Switching to goaltenders, tell us how you inspect their masks and talk about the adjustments you have to make?

Shearer: Goalie masks are among the most important pieces of equipment that they wear. Goalies sometimes get hit in the mask by shots going 100 mph. Without proper protection, there can be serious injuries. We change Jonas Hiller's mask at least twice a year. Every goalie has two masks that they can wear at any given time. If a mask gets dented on the cage, it gets changed right away. It's no good. The weld joint can break and you can have a serious injury result from that.

I inspect goalie masks after every practice and game. But, usually, the goalie comes to me with the problem. The cages are custom made so we always have one that we change to. The average youth-hockey player, men's league or senior player may be put off by the cost of replacing a cage but once you have a bend, you don't want to bend it back? That can make it worse?

Shearer: If it's bent, the structural integrity is gone. At least, make sure there are no cracks in the weld joint. You don't want to push it back out because that will further weaken the structure even more. You should change a bent mask as quickly as possible. Visors come in different shapes. What makes one cut different than another?

Shearer: Our players use a variety of different visors. The narrow-cut visor is called a blade and only covers the eyes. We have another that is wider. It's all player preference. Get something that you will be comfortable with and provides the best possible protection. You only have one set of eyes. If it were up to me, everybody would be wearing a shield. Can visors crack in a way that is hard to detect that would create a potential danger for the player?

Shearer: I have never had a visor that has cracked from impact. There was a case on another team this year where a shot hit a visor and broke. So, they investigated and determined that the visor was improperly installed. If you follow the instructions, you won't have a problem. Inspect around the screws, if you see a small crack or cracks, the visor needs to be changed.