NBC Sports boss Mark Lazarus: Playoff beards hurt NHL players’ marketability

NBC Sports boss Mark Lazarus: Playoff beards hurt NHL players’ marketability

CHICAGO – Mark Lazarus witnessed the power of the playoff beard this week when he suggested NHL players stop growing them for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“I’ve been nothing but the butt of the joke on Twitter for the last 24 hours,” he said on the Wednesday edition of “The Dan Patrick Show.” (Check Hour 2 for the interview.)

Lazarus said the controversy was born when the Chicago Tribune blew up a comment he made about beards during the Final.

“It was a comment to a reporter at the game in Chicago on Monday night. I had made some quiet reference to the NHL and the NHLPA at some point, that I think it would be a nice and interesting change. And he ran with it,” he said.

Lazarus claims he never lobbied the league and the players’ union to help end the practice, and never asked for a formal rule to end the tradition.

“Look, this was just an observation. I made no demands. It was just an observation that we could really raise the profile of players if some players chose not to go the playoff beard route. They could raise their profile, we could get a better look at them, and not just build the core fans that are there but bring in casual fans that understand the accessibility and likeability that these players have,” he said.

He doubled-down on the notion that playoff beards hinder the marketing potential for players.

“We’re in this with them to grow the game. That was the sentiment that I made these comments with, to help grow the game. Hopefully maybe some of them would end up with potential for endorsements because these are great spokesmen for the sport of hockey,” he said.

Look, in a superficial medium like television, there’s no doubt someone will look at Steven Stamkos and think, ‘Hey, cute guy, why does he need that blonde monstrosity wrapping around his face?’

But does that beard hurt his marketability? Isn’t his endorsement potential more greatly affected by his highlight reel, his stats and his success on the ice? Is there any company that will look at Steven Stamkos and say, ‘Yeah, he might be the guy to endorse our product, but he had this beard for a few weeks so [expletive] it?’

The fact is that beards help make some of these guys more marketable. Do we talk about Brent Burns as much if he wasn’t Chewbacca? Was it bad for hockey when Zdeno Chara’s beard sprung forth an army of King Leonidas memes? Heck, even Sidney Crosby’s feeble attempt at one gets people talking.

I just can’t get on board with this idea that playoff beards hurt the marketability of players and the League. At a time when NBC is making bank marketing the traditions of European soccer – the fans, the rivalries, the relegation – the notion that something that makes hockey so unique would actually be a detriment bugs me like an ingrown whisker.

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