Put the Razor Down, Mr. NBCSN
At Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals in Chicago, NBC Sports Chairman Mark Lazarus suggested getting rid of the beard tradition during the playoffs.
Sounds like the suits up at NBC Sports think they know what's best for the players out on the ice every other night. Only one group of people should determine the fate of the famous playoff beards: the players themselves.
The New York Islanders dynasty of the early 1980s is credited with starting the tradition. Imagine Clark Gillies having to shave his big black beard just because a TV exec told him to get endorsements? No way.
Responding to the criticism he deserved, Lazarus told sports talk radio host Dan Patrick, "It was just an observation that we could really raise the profile if some players chose not to go the playoff beard route. We're in this with them to grow the game."
Even if it was only an "observation" and not a "demand" for new facial hair policies, Lazarus's comments show that NBC's number one priority is not hockey tradition but money (or "growth," as he put it). Lazarus's comments are even more confusing when you consider how the beards have become an extremely popular part of the NHL playoffs.
Since 2009, the NHL has partnered with Just For Men in the annual Beard-a-thon, inviting players and fans to grow beards and/or fundraise for charities. So far, the campaign has raised over $3 million, and the New York Rangers donated more than any other team this season. In 2011 and 2012, the Players' Association (NHLPA) also held their own Beard-a-thon and donated more than $300,000 to the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
For the sake of the players, the fans, the sport, and charities across North America, Lazarus should bite his tongue and watch the game next time. And if he happens to read this post, he just may grow a beard as well.
Stay strong, NHLPA!