Judging by the reaction to my Chicago Tribune column, NBC Sports Chairman Mark Lazarus is in a distinct minority with his view that players need to shave during the postseason. He thinks the playoff beard hurts their recognition with fans.
Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo! Sports:
NHL stars are sold on two things: Skills and story. A beard doesn’t change what they do on the ice. A beard doesn’t change who they are intrinsically, if NBC would spend the time to churn out the same level of vignettes for the Stanley Cup Final that it does, say, for the Olympics.
And the idea that some of these players are less attractive with beards?
Well, it wouldn’t be the first time the sports media has shown a tone deafness for the women (and some men) in its audience.
Andrew Bucholtz of Awful Announcing:
If making individual players more identifiable is the goal, there are plenty of ways to do that without attempting to legislate what facial hair they can have. Helmets and visors would seem to be more of an obstacle there, and while you obviously can’t remove those for in-game play, how about getting helmetless shots of some of the key players standing or skating around and running those when your broadcast talks about them? In general, though, it seems like Lazarus is creating a problem that doesn’t really exist here. Hockey’s doing well for NBC as it is, posting strong Stanley Cup Final ratings so far despite the inclusion of oft-criticized market Tampa Bay, and there certainly aren’t masses of fans out there complaining about the beards or saying it’s hard for them to pick out individual players. Facial hair is only a problem in the head of the chairman of NBC Sports. Sadly, it seems he’s trying to make it a problem for the league.
Mike Cardillo of The Big Lead:
Admittedly, the humble author of this blog post doesn’t know very much about fashion trends — my local barbershop canceled its GQ subscription — but I’ve seen the groan-inducing term “lumbersexual” appear in my Twitter feed numerous times in the last couple months. This could be one of those terms that only appears in the bubble of social media, but it apparently exists.
Short story short, beards appear to be “in.” Granted a slob such as myself saying beards are “in” likely signals just the opposite. Whatever.
Hemel Jhavari of USA Today:
This may be where Lazarus probably has a point. There’s no contest between a clean shaven Jonathan Toews and one sporting several weeks of weak playoff scruff.
Instead of a beard, Toews has this Amish chin strap that doesn’t quite connect all the way around his face. It’s not his best look, but that’s part of the deal. It wouldn’t be the playoffs without players and their gross, scraggly facial hair.
Seth Rosenthal of SB Nation:
Next of all, buried under the kinda creepy “model citizens” and “one of a kind among professional athletes” garbage is a legitimate point: Hockey players perform beneath huge pads and helmets. It gets hard to tell them apart, and to recognize them when they’re not in uniform. Covering all their faces with fuzz only further obscures identities. That’s a bummer if you’re trying to market these persons to the world.
Counterpoint: Guys are gonna do whatever they want with their facial hair. You don’t make the face rules, TV man.