A playoff beard is the superstitious 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. 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." The 1980 Islanders included two Swedish players (Stefan Persson and Anders Kallur) so it is possible that Björn Borg's custom of not shaving his beard during Wimbledon, which he had been doing for several years by that time, was an influence on the start of the practice in hockey. Some 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. In its first four years, more than 22,000 NHL fans participated in the "Beard-a-thon" and raised over two million dollars for charities.
The playoff beard has expanded into Major League Baseball, 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.
- NFL practitioners of the playoff beard include Ben Roethlisberger and Brett Keisel (both of the Pittsburgh Steelers) and former 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 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.
- In a variant of the playoff beard, the Dallas Mavericks stopped shaving during the 2012-13 NBA season until the team reached a .500 percentage of victories.
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.
- Starting in the late 1970s, 5-time Wimbledon champion Björn Borg used to let his beard grow prior to the tournament. Referring to that custom, Sports Illustrated published an article about Borg shortly before the 1981 Wimbledon tournament titled, "The beard has begun."
- Former Top-Five Tennis player James Blake has grown the beard during his runs at Grand Slam events, not shaving until being eliminated.
- Andy Roddick grew a beard for the 2006 US Open.
- 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 spawned 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.
- The Boston Red Sox players' 2013 season was full of beards. "The beard-growing movement began in spring training with Mike Napoli and Jonny Gomes, and as the Red Sox kept winning — despite all predictions to the contrary — most of the team got on board with the beards." By the beginning of the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, only pitcher Koji Uehara was without facial hair. However, in the past, he did have a beard.  Fans all over joined the team in solidarity as good luck to win the 2013 World Series. On Oct 23, 2013 Business Insider posted pictures of the Red Sox players with and without their good luck charms. An additional superstition for the team came during the season and post-season: when a player scores an especially important run, at the end of the game a tug would be given to this player's beard. 
Fans often grow beards as a sign of support while their favorite team is in the playoffs.
- In 2006, the NPR show Weekend America featured a segment about St. Louis Cardinals fans who grew beards during the playoffs. Several Cardinals players grew beards as well.
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.
- Male and female participants, mostly students, participate in No-Shave November (or Noshember) as well as Movember during the month of November to raise awareness for charities and/or men's health, or just for fun, competition, or out of laziness and business.
- Edsger W. Dijkstra and Jaap Zonneveld agreed to not shave until they completed the Electrologica ALGOL 60 compiler.
Other playoff hair
- 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 struggles to grow a beard the year before.
- In the 2008 NHL Playoffs some of the Calgary Flames, including Craig Conroy, David Moss, Dustin Boyd and Jarome Iginla, got "faux-hawk" haircuts.
- 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 a playoff tradition, but in the back end of the Super League season in 2007, Wigan Warriors made a pact to grow mustaches until they lost another game.
- Dubbed "Moustache Posse" by the Frankfurt media, several members of the Frankfurt Galaxy sported moustaches en route to winning NFL Europe's World Bowl in 2006.
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- Chicago Breaking Sports (2010-05-08). "Assessing the Aces playoff beard efforts". Tribune News Services. Retrieved 2010-07-12.
- Ian Walker, Montreal Gazette (2011-04-13). "The Playoff Beard Mystique".
- Podnieks, Andrew. Hockey Superstitions: From Playoff Beards to Crossed Sticks and Lucky Socks, McClelland & Stewart Ltd., 2010, ISBN 0-7710-7108-9, pp. 8-9.
- NHL.com (2013-04-29). "BEARD-A-THON is back: Fans called to grow beard".
- Trey Kerby (2010-04-19). "The Los Angeles Lakers are growing playoff beards".
- John Branch (2006-01-18). "Quarterbacks growing wild". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-05-04.
- Mary Schmitt Boyer (2007-04-24). "LeBron says ankle won't keep him out". The Plain Dealer. Retrieved 2007-05-04.
- http://www.dallasnews.com/sports/dallas-mavericks/headlines/20130414-beards-be-gone-mavs-beat-hornets-to-get-back-to-.500-earn-much-needed-shave.ece Beards be gone: Mavs beat Hornets to get back to .500, earn much-needed shave], The Dallas Morning News
- Martin Rogers (2007-11-15). "Houston's growth potential". Yahoo Sports. Retrieved 2007-11-16.
- "Houston Dynamo Reaches MLS Cup Final". Huffington Post. 2011-11-07.
- Curry Kirkpatrick. "The Beard Has Begun". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2013-05-26.
- Billy Baker. "Diehard Red Sox supporters bond over their beards". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2013-10-24.
- Nick O'Malley. "Believe it or not, Boston Red Sox closer Koji Uehara used to have a beard - and a 33.75 postseason ERA". MassLive. Retrieved 2013-10-24.
- Tony Manfred. "Photos Of Red Sox Players Before And After They Had Playoff Beards". Business Insider. Retrieved 2013-10-24.
- unknown. "Playoff Baseball and Beard Tugs". What The Huff. Retrieved 2013-10-24.
- Olivia Solon (2005-02-04). "Beginning the finals countdown". Cherwell24. Retrieved 2007-05-04.[dead link]
- "Noshember, Home of No Shave November; Rules". Noshember.com. Retrieved 2013-10-27.
- van Emden, Maarten (2012-06-14). "I remember Edsger Dijkstra (1930–2002)". Retrieved 2010-12-22.
- Greg Wyshynski (2010-04-14). "Patrick Kane rejects playoff beard in favor of 'trashy' mullet".
- Tim Sassone (2010-04-16). "Hawks throw some 'Dirt' on Kane's new hairstyle".
- Jean Lefebvre (2008-04-10). "Flames take Game 1".