NBC Sports Chairman Mark Lazarus has done an excellent job growing hockey on his network, and he has another idea that he thinks will enhance the game even further: He wants players to stop growing playoff beards.
Lazarus wants fans to see players’ faces – not beards, which make them unrecognizable.
How will this idea go over with the players?
“Not well at all,” NHL.com senior writer Dan Rosen said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “These are superstitious guys. And not only are they superstitious guys, but they appreciate the history of the game – and the history of the game involves playoff beards. It’s been going on for a long time now. That’s just the superstitious nature of it. You see it. Guys, they’ll start growing them and if it doesn’t work out, they’ll trim them, they’ll shave them, they’ll fu manchu them – they’ll do whatever they can if it works to get a win.”
Believe it or not, Scott Ferrall thinks Lazarus has a point. Besides, he estimates that 75 to 80 percent of NHL players look ridiculous with playoff beards.
“You’ve got a point, and yes, they look ridiculous – a lot of them,” Rosen said. “But I haven’t met a lot of athletes that are more superstitious than hockey players, and if they think it’s going to work for them, they’re going to use it. I’ve also not met a lot of athletes that are as tuned into the history of the game as hockey players are and appreciative of things that have come before them. The playoff beard, it might be a stupid tradition, but it’s a tradition and they respect it.”
But what if a guy is young or just can’t grow a quality beard – like 24-year-old Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Andrej Sustr? What if they can only grow spotty patches? Shouldn’t those guys shave?
“They should, yes,” Rosen said. “They should deny themselves access to those beards because they do look ridiculous with them. But look, man, these guys love their playoff beards. It’s getting out of control with some of them, but they think it works for them so they keep going with it.”
Ultimately, Rosen thinks Lazarus can request that players shave but that he’ll ultimately be disappointed.
“No, no, I don’t think you can get away with regulating how players look and present themselves except for their uniforms,” Rosen said. “There’s rules and regulations for their uniforms, but otherwise, a guy’s got to be able to be who he wants to be, right? It’s a free country.”