The real problem ... is facial hair

KATHRYN HUMPHREYS -- Special to Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:46 AM ET

"Hockey is not a sport in the U.S. Everyone knows that." So says Anaheim Ducks general manager Brian Burke.

I'll tell you why it's not a sport in the U.S.: Playoff beards. Facial hair is killing the game in the American market. These players skate around with too much hair and too few teeth. Why don't we just hand them a banjo and make Ned Beatty the commissioner of the league?

It's follically frightening and it's forcing fathers to sign their kids up for football. Why do you think Jude Law dumped Sienna Miller? She had a mustache to rival Rip Taylor's.

The NBA has a dress code. They care about appearances. We don't see them growing playoff beards. Of course, most of them are too young. Our Blue Jays don't have an iron clad "Facial Hair Policy," but according to general manager J.P. Ricciardi, "If we think someone is getting a little mangy or grubby, we'll pull them in and say you might want to clean it up a little bit."

So I ask if he has ever pulled anyone in. He says yes. "Who?" I ask. He won't tell me, but did say, "they responded well, shaved and got a haircut."

We can eliminate Sal Fasano. The Jays catcher is known worldwide for his famous Fu Manchu. These days, however, he's sporting a little something he calls "The Gunslinger."

"Have you ever seen any Westerns?" he asks me. No, but I did see Funny Girl and Streisand was pure magic. Sal has wandered away.

The NHL could learn a thing or two from the New York Yankees. They have a strict facial hair code of conduct.

According to my new best friend, Johnny Damon, the rule is: Players can't have long hair, and they can't have facial hair below their upper lip, meaning most of Martha Stewart's prison gal pals would be ineligible to play for the Yanks.

Damon told me that, given the choice, he'd grow the beard back.

Yankee outfielder Josh Phelps has bought in. He tells me sternly, "There's nothing wrong with being clean shaven. It looks professional." That's the same speech my boss gave me last week when I showed up in short shorts.

But what about those, like Sal Fasano, who use facial hair to express themselves? What if the Yankees' follicle freedom were restored?

Yankees bench coach Don Mattingly says, if given the freedom, he'd probably grow one of those goatees with "the long thing."

I ask him what he thinks of Fasano's Gunslinger, and he says, "He looks like a pizza guy." Oh Don. The jealous are troublesome to others, but a torment to themselves.

I ask Phelps what he'd do with facial hair freedom, and with the Kool-Aid stain still fresh on his lips he says, "I'd stay clean-shaven." I bet he was a hall monitor back in public school.

After being traded to the Yanks, shaving off the goatee was traumatic for Puerto Rican Yankees catcher Wil Nieves: "You know what? In the beginning, when I first shaved, I felt horrible."

I ask him what he thinks of all these hairy hockey players and their playoff beards. Wil interrupts me and tells me that hockey isn't a sport in Puerto Rico.

KATHRYN HUMPHREYS WORKS FOR CITY-TV


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