A playoff beard is the practice of a National Hockey League player not shaving his beard during the Stanley Cup playoffs. The player stops shaving when his team enters the playoffs and does not shave until his team is eliminated or wins the Stanley Cup. The tradition was started in the 1980s by the New York Islanders. The tradition is also practiced by nearly all North American hockey leagues, to include high school leagues and the NCAA hockey teams, as well as minor league affiliates. The tradition has also spread to hockey leagues in Europe and is practiced by many fans as well. According to some observers, one may trim the beard after a loss in an effort to change the team's luck; Jim Dowd and Roberto Luongo were such practitioners.
It's not known whether the origins of the practice are purely superstitious or in connection with the myth of Samson. Hall of Famer Denis Potvin says that the Islanders of the 1980s would "play four games in five nights in the first round and it was just something that kind of happened." Other players have said the beard is both a reminder of team unity and a way to get you thinking about the playoffs from the moment you look in the mirror in the morning. The 2009 Red Wings used the slogan "The beard is back" for the final series of their 2009 Stanley Cup playoffs run. They played the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Final that year (won by Pittsburgh) in which most of the players (and the owner of the team, Mario Lemieux) grew beards as well.
In 2009, the Beard-a-thon campaign was launched to encourage fans to grow their own playoff beards for charity. Since its inception, the "Beard-a-thon" has raised over one million dollars to NHL charities.
Examples in Hockey 
- During the 2003 Stanley Cup playoffs Mighty Ducks of Anaheim goalie Jean-Sébastien Giguère was noted for his thick beard; he commented that both he and his wife hated the beard, but that he did it for the team.
- Also, during the 2003 playoffs, Ken Daneyko of the New Jersey Devils grew a significantly large beard. They went on to win the Cup against the Mighty Ducks.
- During the same 2003 NHL Playoffs, Anaheim's #1 center Adam Oates refused to grow a playoff beard, noting that the superstition only works for 1 of the 16 playoff teams (a mere 6% effectiveness). The Mighty Ducks went on to lose game 7 of the Stanley Cup final.
- In the 2006–2007 post-season, the entire University of Minnesota men's hockey team bleached their hair blonde. To comply, the Goldy Gopher mascot and FSN anchor Doug Woog sported blonde wigs.
Other sports 
The playoff beard has expanded into the Canadian Football League, the National Football League and, to a lesser extent, the National Basketball Association. The practice generally resembles that of hockey in that players don't shave until they either win a championship or are eliminated.
American Football 
- NFL practitioners of the playoff beard include Ben Roethlisberger and Brett Keisel (both of the Pittsburgh Steelers) and Denver Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer. In fact, after Roethlisberger and his beard led the Steelers to their Super Bowl XL victory, he was shaved by David Letterman during an appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman.
- At the beginning of the 2007–2008 NFL season, wide receiver Matt Jones of the Jacksonville Jaguars grew a "touchdown beard" that he said he would keep until catching his first touchdown, which took until week 8.
- During the 2007–2008 New England Patriots season, several offensive linemen including Pro Bowlers Matt Light and Logan Mankins grew beards until being eliminated. Both men showed up at the Pro Bowl much cleaner cut than in previous weeks.
- During a 2008 playoff run, many Philadelphia Eagles players grew beards, inspiring head coach Andy Reid and owner Jeffrey Lurie to do likewise.
- In the late 1990s, members of the New York Knicks, including Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley, Larry Johnson, and Allan Houston grew beards during the playoffs.
- LeBron James of the Miami Heat has worn a playoff beard in the past.
- Zydrunas Ilgauskas wore a playoff beard in 2006, but didn't bring it back for the 2007 playoffs, citing spousal disapproval.
Association football (soccer) 
- In 1993, Sheffield United's veteran striker Alan Cork did not shave during the club's four-month FA Cup run where they ultimately reached the semi-finals.
- In Major League Soccer, players on the Houston Dynamo roster kept a "lucky beard" for the duration of the 2006 and 2007 MLS Cup Playoffs. They renewed the tradition during their run to the 2011 MLS Cup.
- The Los Angeles Galaxy grew playoff beards during their run to the 2005 MLS Cup and again during the 2010 MLS Cup Playoffs.
- Superstar Björn Borg used to let his beard grow prior to the Wimbledon tournament. Citing that custom, Sports Illustrated's Wimbledon preview once captioned a Borg photo with, "The beard has begun."
- Top-Ten Tennis player James Blake now sports the beard during his runs at Grand Slam events, not shaving until he has been eliminated.
- Andy Roddick sported a beard for the 2006 US Open.
In NASCAR Nextel Cup driver Carl Edwards had last won a race at Texas Motor Speedway in November 2005. Two years later in June 2007 he won at Michigan International Speedway. Motorhome driver Tom Giacchi hadn't shaven until Edwards' win in Michigan. Carl Edwards offered him a shave after the race.
- In the later part of the 2010 MLB Season, closer Brian Wilson of the San Francisco Giants, along with teammate Sergio Romo grew playoff beards and refused to shave it off until the season was over (Wilson also dyed his beard black). Through the remainder of the season, it became more popular among Giants fans and sported the phrase "Fear the Beards". Both continue to sport the beard to this day.
- St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Lance Berkman grew a playoff beard through the team's postseason run up to the 2011 World Series. The Cardinals won the series in 7 games.
Fan beards 
Fans often grow beards as a sign of support while their favorite team is in the playoffs.
- In 2009, a sports marketing agency, CENERGY, launched the NHL Beard-a-thon to allow hockey fans to grow their own playoff beard for charity. Over 25,000 beard growers have raised over one million dollars for charity since the program launched.
- In 2006 a Canadian entrepreneur named Jeff Phillips created a playoff beard hat called 'the Beardo' and later put out a line of hand knit beanies with foldaway and adjustable beards through the company Beardowear. The 'Beardo', however, is not popular with hockey fans and has never been seen at an NHL game. The majority find it quite ridiculous looking.
- In 2006, the NPR show Weekend America featured a segment about St. Louis Cardinals fans who grew beards during the playoffs. Several players for the underdog Cardinals grew beards too. The team would go on to win the World Series.
- Fans of the 2006-07 Buffalo Sabres whose loyal contingency display rules for grooming, dealing with skeptical supervisors and unappreciative significant others.
Outside of Sports 
- Male students at some universities in the United States, Canada, and Sweden have also begun to sport an academic variation on the playoff beard - not shaving between the period when regular classes end and their last final exam.
- In 2010 game programmer and staff member "Mr. Insane" of virtual pet site Neopets, grew a beard throughout the duration of the lengthy 'Faeries' Ruin Plot', which ran from Autumn 2010 to Midwinter 2011. One day he began shaving the beard, but was stopped partway through by another staff member. He had to continue on with a half-beard until he completed coding the plot to the end.
- Edsger W. Dijkstra and Jaap Zonneveld agreed to not shave until they completed the Electrologica ALGOL 60 compiler.
Playoff Hair (other) 
- During the 2010 playoffs, Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks chose to style his hair into a "playoff mullet" in addition to growing a playoff beard. He did it because of his well-documented struggles to grow a beard the year before. Kane was just 21 during the 2010 Playoffs which saw the Chicago Blackhawks go on to win it all with Kane scoring the cup-clinching goal in game 6 against the Philadelphia Flyers. Barry Melrose is one of the few well-known supporters of the playoff mullet.
- In the 2008 NHL Playoffs the Calgary Flames took a page out of the SLC Punk handbook and grew Playoff Mohawks. Captain Jarome Iginla and Assistant Captain Craig Conroy both sported Playoff Mohawks for their seven game loss to the San Jose Sharks. http://www.mohawksrock.com/profiles/blogs/1501994:BlogPost:11405
- At the end of the 2007 CFL regular season, the BC Lions grew playoff moustaches, the idea came from Rob Murphy and was then used as a promotion for ticket and merchandise sales.
- Not so much a playoff tradition, but in the back end of the Super League season in 2007, Wigan Warriors made a pact after losing 43-24 to the Warrington Wolves, a result which left their playoff hopes hanging in the balance, to grow moustaches until they lost another game. The Warriors would then embark on an unbeaten run which enabled them to scrape into the playoffs with a last day of the season win over arch-rivals St Helens, at the Wolves' expense. Wigan then completed a heroic comeback on the road as they roared back from 30-6 down with 25 minutes remaining against the Bradford Bulls in the first round of the playoffs to win 31-30, before beating Hull 21-18 to go one game from the Grand Final. They unfortunately bowed out 36-6 to eventual champions Leeds Rhinos but moustache fever gripped the Wigan fans too with many fans either growing their own or wearing fake moustaches to playoff games.
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