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
shaven faces.

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.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Someone tell this bozo there are 10 other months in the year.

    Good luck expecting a player to set a couple days aside during the SC Finals to make a commercial.

  • camdog

    I still can’t figure out why Edmonton City Council doesn’t believe that Edmontonians are Champions?

    And it’s Klondike days people, not K days or whatever that name was before it.

  • The GREAT Walter White

    Here’s a brilliant idea for marketing NBC, sell playoff beards at the games and you will make a ton, you heard it here first. Now fire your marketing bum’s and pay me 1% royalties for the next 40 years.

  • Saazman

    Why not get rid of beards…Everything else in sports and especially in the NHL is getting emasculated. Hardly any fighting in the NHL anymore. The ridiculous skateby hand slapping after goals. The fan salute by the hometeam after a win after a win. Hockey is hardly a neanderthal sport nowadays. Just get rid of the beard..I don’t think I saw the NHL greats like Marice Richard and Jean Beliveau wear beards in an era where there actually was toughness in the sport. Why be hypocritical athletes now. Wear your hockey helmut and faceguard and by jiminy crickets get rid of your playoff bear.

  • Kr55

    Hockey is a professional sport, not a patriotic outlet. Owners of Canadian teams dont care about your patriotic spirit, they care about your dollars. I do not understand why fans want to hang on to, and be proud of, something that they dont have any investment in other than spare time.

    NHL is not a part of Canadian culture, NHL is part of corporate America.

    This cultural pride is about as a patriotic as nationalism: that you are a subject of cause of migration and some drunk bigots drawing a map.

  • paul wodehouse

    “…because some part-time municipal legislator who once took a class at community college about marketing…”

    Hey Matt, what’s wrong with community college man?

  • paul wodehouse

    I feel I am eminently qualified to chime in on this topic. What a corporate tool this guy is. What next? All players over 21 years have to wax their pubes?

  • paul wodehouse

    I’m no marketing expert, but methinks dropping the puck at 10am is more detrimental to the game than some facial hair… but hey, what do I know?

  • Ndustry

    I wonder if this whole boy next door thing is a strategic knock on basketball this time of year as well. lol Or I at least wonder what someone with that attitude thinks of it. Some journalist should ask him “umm so what do think of basketball in regards to the ‘boy next door’ marketing image?”

  • Only read the headlines sentences and skipped the comments just so I can say ” Go $%6& yourself NBC!”

    p.s. I mite have had to many beers in Kelowna

    oh and

    McDavid, McDavid, McDavid, McDavid, McDavid, McDavid, McDavid, McDavid, McDavid, McDavid, McDavid, McDavid, McDavid, McDavid, McDavid, McDavid! only 16 more days!

  • BobbyCanuck

    I wonder if this executive has enough authority or networking power to get a clause put in the next NBC contract?

    NBC: 20 yrs at $200M per year
    Roger’s: 12 yrs at 436M per year

    I think if the NHL had not gotten such a vast amount from Roger’s, they would certainly entertain the idea of no play-off beards. After all, have to keep the Network Overlords happy.

    Or, one could look at the safety aspect. Facial cuts on bearded men have a higher chance of infection, ingrown hairs fusing into the cut.

    Anyways, a wonderfull topic on a no-news dog day of summer before the draft


  • Leaking5w-30

    Putting hockey tradition aside… am I the only one offended by the implication that people who grow beards are not outstanding citizens? There are many valid religious and cultural reasons to grow a beard. They should all be respected….. Including the hockey beard!

  • smiliegirl15

    Nine more years suffering with Rogers makes me much more wound up than NBC’s asinine comments. Beards should give them something to discuss since they know nothing about hockey.

  • mrBacon

    I would like to see an ugly is beautiful ad campaign for the NHL playoffs featuring those gorgeous beards and toothless grins compiled together with a bunch of gritty hard work goals, hits and blocked shots.

  • Do what Weight did?

    Why’s this guy worried about beards? He should be looking into new technology. Maybe something that could highlight the puck at it moves around the rink? Then, when the players shoot it, they could digitally add a red streak for those watching at home.