Sutter had a fractured cheekbone and a damaged left eye. He ended up missing 18 games in that 1983-84 season and was fortunate not to have any lingering issues with his vision.
Which is why, for many reasons, his is an important voice on the issue of face shields, a debate sparked earlier this week when New York Rangers defenseman Marc Staal sustained an eye injury when he was hit by a puck. The Rangers say Staal is expected to make a full recovery.
“I’m a proponent of the shield,” Sutter said Thursday after the Kings’ morning skate. “These kids play their whole life with a shield or a cage. Why wouldn’t you continue to protect it once you are playing at the highest level? That’s not Marc. That’s everybody.
“There are kids that come from the American [Hockey] League that take their shields off to play. That shouldn’t be the way it is. I believe the one time they shouldn’t have the helmet on or the shield on is warmups. That’s the only time they ever get to do anything on the ice without it. I think that’s their right, their identity. That should be their 16 minutes for people to see that, ‘He’s got blond hair or sideburns.'
“It doesn’t really make that much sense [to play without a shield]. It’s their right. It doesn’t matter until it’s grandfathered, or a rule. Or a parent or a wife or a son that says, ‘Dad, honey.’ That’s the way it works. There’s not one thing I, or any of us, can do about it.”
Face shields are not mandatory in the NHL. Helmets were made mandatory before the 1979-80 season, which happened to be Sutter’s rookie season in Chicago. Veterans were grandfathered.
Naturally, hockey superstitions reigned.
“It would be funny,” Sutter said. “There would be guys that would be hot or cold and they would not wear a helmet or they would wear a helmet. If they hadn’t scored in three games, they’d take a helmet off. You were still allowed to do it.”