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Should the Lightning-Blackhawks series be a close shave?

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Should Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning be a pretty boy?

Should Victor Hedman be a little less scruffy.

And for goodness sakes, can’t these guys just shave and be done with it?

According to an NBC executive, it would be nice to see a little more face time during thes Stanley Cup Finals. NBC Sports Chairman Mark Larazus tells the Chicago Tribune he has lobbied the NHL to stop the tradition of players growing playoff beards, which he says hinders the growth of new stars.

“The players won’t like this, but I wish they all would stop growing beards in the postseason,” Lazarus said. “Let’s get their faces out there. Let’s talk about how young and attractive they are. What model citizens they are. (Hockey players) truly are one of a kind among professional athletes.

“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.”

Actually, the tradition really isn’t that old. It started in the ’80s with the great Islander teams. Before that, players played without beards, and often without visors or helmets.

“You had guys like Bobby Hull, Guy Lafleur, Ron Duguay,” Lazarus said. “These guys were out there with their hair flowing. They were doing jeans commercials.”

Lazarus obviously isn’t advocating getting rid of helmets and visors, but he says the added element of a shaggy beard makes it even more difficult for fans to identify players. He thinks it is a detriment considering the Stanley Cup Finals posts the biggest ratings of the year. The Blackhawks-Lightning series is generating strong ratings for NBC and NBCSN.

“These are the most-watched games and they’re all bearded up,” Lazarus said.

“Lazarus said he has conveyed his shave requests to NHL officials; the NHL Players Association; and even players in individual discussions.

The NHL had no comment.

“But I’m just a TV guy,” Lazarus said. “They don’t want to listen to me.”

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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