TAMPA, Fla. - Don't ban the beard.
That's the consensus among players at the Stanley Cup final after NBC Sports chairman Mark Lazarus suggested the NHL consider outlawing playoff beards so fans can better recognize faces.
It's a sentiment Don Cherry agrees with even though he knows it won't happen.
"I see the guys holding the Cup up, and then I see them in the summer with his beard off, he makes a lot of sense," Cherry said Wednesday night. "Don't laugh at the guy. It makes sense, but they'll never get rid of the beard."
That's perfectly fine with players from the Tampa Bay Lightning and Chicago Blackhawks, many of whom are sporting bushy playoff beards at the Cup final.
Lightning captain Steven Stamkos understands the thinking behind it but can't support banning the beard.
"It's such a long-lasting tradition," Stamkos said. "Obviously hockey is not one of the more recognizable sports, especially in the States with some of the other pro leagues that they have. But we're gaining interest. ...
"I don't think guys are going to be willing to change anytime soon."
While the Stanley Cup is the end of the road for one team, playoff beards are evidence of the long road to get there. Some players have facial-hair superstitions and take pride in getting as bushy as possible, while others struggle.
"I have trouble to grow my own beard," Blackhawks rookie Teuvo Teravainen said.
In the locker-room beards are the subject of plenty of ribbing. Players are all too eager to rag on teammates for bad beards.
"Andrej Sustr, that's a tough one," said fully bearded Tampa Bay defenceman Jason Garrison. "But I give it to him all the time, so he's aware of it."
Lightning centre Cedric Paquette doesn't mind a little pain and some itchiness. As his coach Jon Cooper says about the grind of the playoffs, Paquette wouldn't trade being in the Cup final for a clean shave.
"I think it's a great part of the playoffs," Paquette said. "Maybe for TV it would be a bit better, but for us hockey players, we don't care about (being recognized). I think it's great for the sport."
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Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version incorrectly spelled Lightning defenceman Andrej Sustr's last name Suster.