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That's why referees don't wear playoff beards

That's why referees don't wear playoff beards

Referee Misha Hebesen comes to work on the qualifying episode.Image: Cornerstone

Players grow beards during the crucial stage of each season, but referees do not. Why actually?

April 8, 2024 at 2:14 pmApril 8, 2024 at 2:57 pm

Julien Calloz /

The reason for this is very simple: you are not allowed to do that. “This is an unwritten law that has been in place for more than 50 years,” explains Reto Bertolotti, himself a former referee (from 1987 to 2005) and former union president (from 2005 to 2014).

“Referees who grow a beard or mustache during the regular season are allowed to keep it for the final series, but they are not allowed to grow it,” confirms Andreas Fischer, current president of the Zebras. On the other hand, those who are always as smooth as a puck have to get a haircut before every match. Is it because you don't want to compete with the players? “Not at all,” Bertolotti answers. It's a matter of image. We have to be well-groomed. Qualifying nights are a bit like Sundays. It is the Lord's day.”

Referee Reto Bertolotti gave the signal to the players on Saturday, April 3, 2004 in Bern, during the final match of the National League A, between SC Bern and HC Lugano.  (Keystone/Yoshiko Kusano)

Reto Bertolotti has been on the move for a long time.Photo: Keystone

Former referee and current TV pundit Stephane Rochette supports the move: “I completely understand that referees have to be clean-shaven during qualifying. Appearance is important.” Much more important than you can imagine. Rochette explains why:

“I always tell the young referees I look after: People (coaches, players, spectators) judge you at first sight. You can be the best person, the smartest man on earth, but strangers will always see your appearance, your skating, and your body language first. Wearing “A noticeable goatee or mustache can instantly make you look older or more aggressive. This creates incorrect biases. You haven't made up your mind yet on the ice and you have to prove you're a good judge.”

In the collective imagination, the mustache symbolizes “masculinity and power” (source: “Gend'info”, the magazine of the 80,000-strong gendarmerie in France). Shouldn't referees wear mustaches when carrying out their duties? Wouldn't that improve their authority? “No,” answers a former National League umpire, who recalls one of his colleagues being discriminated against because of his goatee. “He was seen as arrogant because of his beard, even though he wasn't.”

This is how the first beard was created:

The union takes the four-man referee's facial hair seriously, and not just in Switzerland: beards and mustaches are banned in the NHL and at the world championships.

This article is adapted from the first version that appeared here in April 2022.

Messi has a beard? So what, our national team players are leading the way with these snouts!


Messi has a beard? So what, our national team players are leading the way with these snouts!

Lionel Messi competes in the 2016 Copa America with a beard – the Swiss national team players are unmoved and show their noses.

Source: x02835/Mike DeNovo

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