Hockey News columnist: Lazarus wrong about beards, but right about trying to improve marketing of NHL

Want to share a good column by Adam Proteau of the Hockey News. He doesn’t agree with NBC Sports Chairman Mark Lazarus’ desire to get rid of playoff beards.

However, Proteau contends fans who are vehemently opposed to Lazarus’ stance are missing the larger issue. He writes:

But when you consider the TV executive’s underlying message – that the league, the game and its players must take greater efforts to maximize their marketability – isn’t to be mocked at all. Lazarus is doing the NHL a service by trying to shake the tree and wake people up to a problem, because hockey at its highest level too often strives for a homogeneity that threatens its place in the pro sports pecking order.

The playoff beard tradition isn’t all that much of a tradition, as Lazarus noted; it began with the 1980s-era New York Islanders Stanley Cup-winning teams, but didn’t fully catch on for many years after that. Wayne Gretzky’s Oilers never looked like they were auditioning to be Rip Van Winkle when they were winning championships.

Proteau wants more color from the players:

If Safe is Death as a hockey strategy, the same goes in regard to business. There’s a reason products in virtually every industry known to man are constantly attempting to evolve. If you don’t change with the times, you don’t get many more times to change. And in many regards, the NHL hasn’t changed enough to compete in the modern entertainment industry. Players and media continue a Kabuki Theatre of passive-aggressive thrust-and-parry that usually results in the journalism equivalent of Muzak. Virtually every night, there is a Cirque du Snoré of endless hackneyed surface analysis, an unspoken contest to see which players can use the most syllables to say the least. Is that an area where players are willing to change? Knowing that they might be making more hockey fans (and putting more money in their pockets), can they show a little more emotion and care a little less about winding up on the opposition’s dressing room message board as the author of a quote that indicates they’re an actual human being and not a magic 8-ball of cliches?

And finally:

If the game is to grow, change is inevitable and not nearly as negative as many would have you believe. So yes, Lazarus picked the wrong target when he focused on playoff beards. But his intent is admirable, and if we can stop piledriving his one particular notion into the ground, we’d see he’s got a point.

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