The 2008-09 American Hockey League regular season ended three weeks ago and there are just eight teams still playing for the Calder Cup. Of all the players still out there battling through the playoffs, most seem to have lost their razors and fans are questioning their hygiene. No, they haven’t broken their relationships with barbers (at least temporarily). No, they didn’t lose a Bic sponsorship. It’s hockey playoff tradition!
Players, coaches and staffers across the NHL, AHL, ECHL and just about any other hockey league where they are old enough to grow beards, do just that, grow out the playoff dirt. This hockey tradition has some theories on where and when it originated, but it is believed to bring good luck along the way to whichever Cup a player’s respective league covets.
The trend appears to be a fairly recent one but without a certainty on when it originated. Playoff beards seemed to come about in the NHL when then New York Islanders had their dynasty of the 1980’s, winning four consecutive Stanley Cups from 1980 to 1983. During that stretch five members of the club had bushy black beards that brought them good luck, which most likely caused the tradition to begin. One of the Islanders included Clark Gillies, a relative of current Wild player Colton Gillies, who joined the Aeros late last season.
Prior to the appearance of beards in the Stanley Cup Playoffs the lucky beard was brought about by tennis player Bjorn Borg (pictured above). He grew his beard out prior to every Wimbledon he played in and won five consecutive cups from 1976 to 1980. Borg’s good fortune may have transferred the beard from tennis to hockey and it has stuck in the latter ever since.
As you may know, not everyone goes with the traditional beard like Scott Niedermayer did in the Anaheim Ducks’ championship season of 2007. His teammate George Parros had his own variation in the form of a thick mustache. Mike Commodore even put his red ‘fro into the mix during the 2006 Carolina Hurricanes’ championship run. Most players start off with their faces as smooth as a sphynx cat (which I recently learned is a breed that originated in Canada so her inclusion in this story seems appropriate), but the hair grows quickly and these variations can be drastically different.
The Aeros have their own variety so radio man Joe O’Donnell recommended we dish out Houston’s own awards for facial hair:
As O’Donnell mentioned in one of his blogs, Kevin Constantine is going with the Civil War era facial hair and, after the blonde finally started to show, I’ve become impressed with his General Burnside’s sideburns earning him the Best Variation of a Playoff Beard Award.
The Weakest Playoff Beard Award goes to Danny Irmen. I hate to hand this to someone who played for my hometown team at the University of Minnesota, but I didn’t have much of a choice. His “beard” reminds me somewhat of freshly seeded grass with the early sprouts coming up. Even 19-year-old Marco Scandella has a better showing through a round and a half of playoffs.
We named an award after Scott Niedermayer because his full and graying beard was pretty solid as he led the Ducks to their championship. With years of experience growing the playoff beard, Jerry Meins has an unfair advantage, but he deserves recognition with the Niedermayer Award.
The Sickest Playoff Beard Award I will put out for the fans to vote on. The list of players and their beard pictures are below but please keep in mind a traditional playoff beard is straight up growth without any manicuring. Please send the name of your vote to email@example.com and reasoning behind your choice can’t hurt. The judges can be bribed. The beards will be revisited as the playoffs roll on and the winner will be announced and probably awarded a Bic razor when the playoffs are through.
Don't be shy to grow and share your own playoff beard!
Here is a list of most of the Aeros roster, click on each name to see how you’re favorite players are filling in their chins.
(Note: Anton Khudobin’s kissy face did not win him any awards or brownie points for anything)