With the playoff season yet again underway, what seems like timeless tradition of the playoff beard is once again starting in locker rooms and with fans across North America. Players and fans alike embrace spring as a chance to grow some facial flow, up until either you are eliminated or the Holy Grail is being hoisted above your head. Don’t get us wrong, there is NEVER a bad excuse to grow an amazing beard, however most hockey fans start once their team grabs a spot for the post-season. These said ‘Playoff Beards’ are generally not pretty, there are not manicured or tailored, but a natural display of manly wildness.
NHL Players such as Jim Dowd (1995 Stanley Cup / 17 NHL Seasons) believe that you may trim your beard following a playoff loss in order to “change your luck” but one must never put a razor to the face and cleanly shave the beard off. He did just this in 2008 before winning game 7 with the Philadelphia Flyers putting a stop to the Washington Capitals winning streak they were on. Playoff beards, however, are a relatively new thing. Not only in hockey, but in pro sports as a whole.
The tradition of the playoff beard began with the New York Islanders in the 1980’s. Ken Morrow, Butch Goring, John Tonelli, Clark Gillies, and Gord Lane all had big, itchy, black beards. It was said to be a good luck charm, and it delivered four consecutive Stanley Cup championships with 19 straight playoff wins during their tenor on Long Island. Doing some research back through photos of Stanley Cup champions in the years past, it is pretty hard to find any player with a beard, even back in the 1800s! One can argue that Bill Flett did have a beard, and win a cup in 1974, but Bill Flett was rarely seen without a beard.
In the few years after, the playoff beard tradition took on a life of its own. The Oilers didn't wear beards because they didn't desire to continue a "tradition" or entertain a superstition started by the Islanders, the team they eventually overthrew as the powerhouse of the NHL. The 85-86 Canadiens or 88-89 Calgary Flames didn't opt to take part in the Islanders' tradition, with the exception of the Flames' Lanny McDonald. The Pen’s were all clean shaven, however in the Habs 92-93 playoff photo’s Eric Desjardins and Ed Ronan sported beards. It is well noted that the Rangers did not wear beards during their 1993-94 Stanley Cup run due to the ever-lasting Rangers-Islanders rivalry. Don’t worry, I’m with you guys on Broadway, ‘Potvin Sucks’. The 1994-95 Stanley Cup New Jersey Devils resumed the modern tradition of the Playoff beard.
As hockey fans all know, it is now a major tradition for every team to grow a playoff beard in the post season. So mucht hat 7 teams (New York Rangers included) are taking part in the 2017 Beard-a-Thon fundraising event which is backed formally by the NHL. To-date the NHL’s Beard-a-Thon campaign has raised $3.5 million for various charities.
Today, playoff beards extend outside of hockey. In 2013, the World Series winning Boston Red Sox had no less than eight players wearing playoff beards. San Francisco Giants fans wore “Fear the Beard” T-shirts featuring pitching Brian Wilson during the 2010 MLB postseason.
Recently in the NHL, players have added some personal touches to their playoff facial hair. None other than Jagr sported a dyed mutton chop for the 2013 Stanley Cup Final with the Bruin’s, and with Patty Kane’s inability to grow a suitable beard, he grew a mullet for the Hawks 2010 Stanley Cup Run.
NBC Sports’ Mark Lazarus said once that Playoff Beards were ruining his brand and hiding young players’ faces. Personally, I don’t care what Lazarus thinks. Hockey players, hockey fans, Playoff Beards are now a part of the sport we all love. Let your beard grow wild and flap in the wind. As the suspense of the playoffs drives on, there is nothing better than to stoke that wonderful beard to calm you down. Let the beards flow…for the game of hockey.