In the realm of hockey gear, there are two distinct types of protective equipment. That which is preventative (shoulder pads, helmets, etc.) and that which allows a player to play while recovering from an injury. For Detroit Red Wings defensman Brad Stuart, the addition of a face guard is allowing him to play before his jaw is completely healed.
Stuart has been out of the lineup since January because of a blind-side hit by Tom Kostopolous (Calgary Flames). You can read more about Brad Stuart’s return here.
The protective shield that Stuart is wearing is similar to the preventative gear worn by many collegiate players. In college, the players shield their entire face with either a cage or a clear full-face shield with a lower jaw attachment. In the NHL, however, partial facial shields are worn by many players, but not all.
When a player is ready to return from any injury, extra precautions are often taken. For Brad Stuart, the extra shield will protect his jaw from pucks or errant sticks. Most types of incidental contact will be avoided or at least lessend from their full impact. It was thought at one time that Skate Fenders would provide a similar function to the NHL. That is, while players recovering from broken feet could still skate, they would want extra shielding. The good news, though, is that much of that type of gear is becoming preventative.
While manufacturers like Down Low Hockey and Skate Fenders continue to try and give players additional protection, one things is clear. There is no substitute for mutual respect between our athletes. The lines have to be drawn by the players on what is out of bounds, though the league is doing its best to assist with new rules and regulations.
Soon, Brad Stuart will set aside his extra gear and get back to the open faced agressive style that makes him one of Detroit’s top defensemen. You can be sure that he is grateful for the chance to play and not have to wait any longer. After all, the game is only fun when you can play.