Dan Girardi has been hit by sticks, fists, and pucks above his eyes, below his eyes, and in between his eyes, but fortunately never directly in one of his eyes. So for his entire seven-year career as a National Hockey League defenseman Girardi never chose to wear a visor on his helmet.
But in the wake of teammate, and good friend, Marc Staal suffering a major eye injury last season when a deflected slap shot sent the puck up into his eye, Girardi reconsidered his stance on wearing a visor this summer. And on Monday when he took part in an unofficial pre-training camp workout at the MSG Training Center with several teammates, Girardi was in the process of getting used to wearing a visor on his helmet.
"With what happened to Marc, I just thought it was a good time for me to put it on," explained Girardi following the workout, which was attended by teammates including Henrik Lundqvist, Derick Brassard, Mats Zuccarello, John Moore, Anton Stralman, and Marek Hrivik.
"An injury like Marc's does affect everything outside of the game, as well," Girardi continued. "You come here and play, but when you go home there's your family life, and you don't want an injury like that to come home with you. I saw what Marc went through last year and it was real tough, being his friend and teammate, and that definitely helped the decision I made."
Girardi contends that even if he did not play the style he does---tough, physical, diving to block shots---he would have made the switch to wearing a visor because it helps lessen the chance a freak accident---like what happened to Staal---could happen to him.
"It's a little tough to adjust to, it fogs up a bit, so I have to get used to all of that, but I think it's a good thing for me to do," said Girardi, whose wife Pamela gave birth to the couple's second child, daughter Shaye, on Saturday. "I think it's an individual decision, and by no means do I think visors should be mandatory at all, but if you want to wear one, then wear one. Especially after seeing what happened to Marc last year, that was not a pretty injury, I made my decision."
As for not being invited to Team Canada's pre-Olympic camp this week, Girardi joked that it was for the best since it would have coincided with the birth of Shaye anyway. However he did admit that while he understood Team Canada's decision, it is still something that will provide some early-season motivation for him this year.
"I thought there was a chance I could go, and I am definitely not mad or holding anything against Team Canada, I just thought the last couple of years I had some good years to give myself the chance to at least go up to the camp," explained Girardi, who led the NHL in blocked shots last season. "But that's fine with me, more time with the family, and it gives me a little more motivation to help (the Rangers) the best I can the first half (of the season) and see what happens. If I have a good half I might get picked (for the Canadian Olympic team)."
Most importantly Girardi is preparing for his eighth season with the Rangers, one he hopes will look more like the 2011-12 campaign which included a run to the Eastern Conference Finals than last year's stop-and-start season which frustratingly ended in the second round of the playoffs.
Girardi is looking forward to meeting the new coaching staff, learning the new system of Alain Vigneault, and then getting the season underway---one he hopes with a legitimate run at the Stanley Cup.
"I just think the guys are really excited to get a fresh start, it was a different year for everyone last year with the lockout and not doing as well as we should have," stated Girardi. "I think we all want to get back to where we were two years ago, leading the standings in the East, and speaking for myself I am just really excited to get going this year."