Today, news broke that the head of NBC Sports wants to kill
the tradition of the playoff beard for marketing purposes. This bearded man
does not approve.
Here’s the offending quote from Mark Lazarus courtesy of Deadspin because the Chicago Tribune uses a paywall that (like
being clean shaven) I have no time for.
“The players won’t like this, but I wish they all would stop
growing beards in the postseason,” Lazarus said. “Let’s get their faces out
there. Let’s talk about how young and attractive they are. What model citizens
they are. (Hockey players) truly are one of a kind among professional athletes.
“I know it’s a tradition and superstition, but I think (the
beards do) hurt recognition. They have a great opportunity with more endorsements.
Or simply more recognition with fans saying, ‘That guy looks like the kid next
door,’ which many of these guys do. I think that would be a nice thing.”
The playoff beard is one of hockey’s most iconic traditions.
The playoff beard is hockey. I don’t even know a time when it wasn’t tradition
to grow a beard at this time of year. The tradition was started by the Islanders’ dynasty, long before my time. What matters is how the beard has been woven
into the fabric of hockey, and why it should stay there.
The playoff beard is a tradition that doesn’t only belong to the NHL.
The AHL, CHL, and every other semi-competitive
hockey league in North America all put away the razors come playoff time.
The growing of facial hair, at this time of year, is a direct
link to the process of becoming a man. It is symbolic of coming of age. The
regular season is over. The playoffs have begun and this is where the boys are separated
from the men. Can’t grow facial hair? Try! Sidney Crosby can’t either and he’s
the best player in the game. But he tries.
NHL players must gruel through roughly two months of playoffs
involving four separate best-of-seven-game series in order to win the Stanley Cup, and this bearded
tradition has been part of that for three and a half decades. The
beard is as much a part of the Cup quest as putting up with gruesome injuries and pretending they don’t hurt until the whole thing is over and they can finally shave/heal.
NBC Sports head Mark Lazarus has this whole thing backwards. NHL
players are growing beards in part to leave behind the clean and young
image of the shaven face. They don’t want to look like the kid next door.
The kid next door probably didn’t go to school today with three broken toes
from a blocked shot, no front teeth because Shane Doan removed them for him
with an impromptu cleaning from the butt end of his stick, and a rotator cuff
that needs surgery.
If NBC is going to start worrying about recognition they had better
realize that the playoff beard is one of hockey’s most recognizable features.
Facial hair and hockey are so synonymous that the NHL quickly and successfully
became a champion of the Movember movement that sees men, women, and children
raise awareness for prostate & testicular cancer every November by growing
thick/wispy/greasy/suave moustaches. The NHL and its players have successfully
used their tradition of whisker growth to raise heaping loads of money and awareness
for research and aid, yet this weasel thinks people would be happier to see clean
Every time I hear some
BS about a decision being made for marketing purposes, part of me wants to
throw some thick-rimmed glasses-wearing goober who lives vicariously through
episodes of Mad Men down a well while videotaping it so we can
make a viral video and track how many shares it gets, then do an AMA on Reddit about the whole
This urge is completely involuntary. I have no control over
it. When the City of Edmonton felt it was necessary to dishonour itself by
removing the City of Champions signs at the entrances to the city because some
part-time municipal legislator who once took a class at community college about
marketing thought Edmonton needed to update its “brand”, I almost lost my mind.
That same weaselly behaviour is at work when the head of NBC Sports thinks it’s
time for Hockey to do away with one of its most celebrated traditions for…reasons.
I’m sorry, but no. Just, NO.
I’m glad the teams, executives, and players who were
approached by NBC all flatly turned away the request to shave. They should
never have been put in the position to field such asinine requests in the first
place, but this is the world we live in. I’m embarrassed for NBC in a way that
normally doesn’t happen unless it’s an Olympic year.