NBC Sports seems to have a thing against facial hair and lobbied the NHL to ban the longstanding tradition of players growing out their beards for the Stanley Cup — reportedly so that the league's hockey stars could be more easily identified on TV.
To be specific, it's Mark Lazarus, chairman of the broadcaster's sports division, who told the Chicago Tribune:
"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 NBC executive said he wanted to emphasize how "young and attractive" the players are — but that their facial hair was giving him a hard time.
His comments come as the heavily-bearded Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning meet in the Stanley Cup Finals, with at least two more games to go.
Since the 1980s, teams have vowed grow their beards as long as they stay in the playoffs — which means players who make the final have gone some two months without a using a razor.
But Lazarus thinks the extra hair means fans struggle to recognize which player is which out on the ice, and makes it harder to market them.
"The players won’t like this, but I wish they all would stop growing beards in the postseason," he said.
"Let’s get their faces out there. Let’s talk about how young and attractive they are. What model citizens they are.... These are the most-watched games and they’re all bearded up."
The Stanley Cup playoffs have been going since mid-April and are winding down. The Lightning are currently leading the series 2-1, with another game Wednesday night.
Expect the beards to stay.