In this edition of the Gear Insider, we take a look at the various cages and visors available to players on the market today. I will be covering everything from sizes and shapes to brands and designs.
The visor or cage is an integral part of any players kit, protecting the wearer from stray pucks and sticks during a game.
A full face cage is now mandatory across Australia for any player under 18. It is also mandatory for all players 18 and over across NSW, Australia, to wear a minimum of a half face visor.
Full face shields come in a variety of shapes, sizes and styles. You have your classic full face cage, usually made with carbon steel wire and traditionally either black, silver or chrome. Built in a traditional straight bar fashion, cages such as the Bauer RBE III, 2100, and 5100, along with the Easton E300, provide good protection at a budget-conscious price. The more advanced full face cages such as the Bauer Re-Akt are made from titanium for a lighter cage without sacrificing strength.
Full face cages are the safest facial protection available on the market and are also the cheapest out of the facial protection range. This in mind, all female players under the IIHF are required to wear a full face shield.
Over the last few years, there has been an emergence of a new category of facial protection: the combo.
The combo is a half-visor/half-cage assembly which provides much better optical clarity whilst still completely covering the face and chin. It is legal for women to use the combo visor/cage. The main manufacturer of the combo is Bauer and they have 2 main designs.
The Bauer Concept 3 looks like it belongs on the head of a futuristic soldier. It is a solid, lightweight, one piece, polycarbonate construction. The Concept 3 provides a larger viewing area without any vertical or horizontal bars. The mouth and chin area are covered with a polycarbonate grill which provides excellent protection.
The new Bauer Hybrid is a more traditional style of combo shield. The same polycarbonate is used on the visor and, again, it provides a much clearer and bigger view than full-wire cages. The big thing about the Hybrid is the wire cage lower. One of the biggest benefits of this, compared to the Concept 3, is the amount of free and open space for air to flow. The thinner wire versus the thicker polycarbonate means you can suck in the big ones between shifts with almost nothing in the way!
This leads us to the half-face visors. Half-face visors have really grown in popularity amongst players because of the eye protection offered without having to sacrifice any clarity or vision.
There are plenty of different brands producing visors, such as the popular Oakley, Bauer and Tron. Other brands include Avision Ahead, Hejduk (created and designed by 2001 Stanley Cup Champion Milan Hejduk), and other smaller ‘Ebay’ brands.
Bauer has stepped up as one of two main contenders with the acquisition of the Itech shield range. Having released their new HDO range, Bauer have changed how we think about visors with the introduction of the clip-in, clip-out system. Instead of having to take apart all those screws and washers every time you damage your visor, you simply press in the clips, slide out the visor and replace it with a new one. Another benefit of this system is being able to store your visor so it doesn’t get scratched up in your bag. This also means you don’t have to explain to your partner, mother, or mate, why there is a missing pillow case in the linen closet.
Oakley has long been associated with quality optics and bringing out a protective, stylish range of visors has seen their popularity grow even more.
I have tried and tested (not on purpose) a number of different brands and styles of facial protection and would highly recommend the following items.
The Bauer Re-Akt full face cage is lightweight, sturdy, and provides a great field of vision whilst remaining comfortable during games and training.
The Bauer Hybrid (known as the Combo Deluxe in Australia) is a brilliant design and provides a great field of vision and protection. The adjustable floating chin cup provides a snug fit on the chin and reduces movement of the cage and visor.
The Bauer HDO clip-in visor range is great for players who demand the best in vision and half-face protection. The range of visor shapes mean the perfect visor for every individual is only a clip away. Lightweight, durable, and with an anti-scratch layer, the HDO visors tick all of the boxes.
The Hejduk visors have been hugely popular in Europe over the years and are slowly starting to trickle into the country with import players. I am currently using one and have nothing but good things to say about it. Its distortion-free view and anti-fog and anti-scratch coatings mean I can always see what is happening on the ice.
Now for the ones that weren’t up to scratch (excuse the pun). Let’s start with the Avision Ahead Combo. While having the advantage of a replaceable visor component, the combo was extremely heavy and bulky. The visor fogged very easily as a result of poor ventilation. The cage section was bulky and restricted airflow through the mask.
Tron visors were the other big disaster. Having purchased one at a rink shop after realising I had forgotten my helmet and visor, it lasted all of half a game. The slots for the screws snapped away as I was doing no more than skating casually towards a face-off. I didn’t notice this had happened until I finished my shift, got to the bench and removed my helmet to wipe the fog off the inside and outside of the visor.
I would not recommend anyone purchase one of these visors. I am glad I had not taken any impact to the front of the visor as it may or may not have withstood it.