Playoff beard

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A bearded Darren McCarty hoisting the Stanley Cup in 2008.

A playoff beard is the superstitious practice of male athletes not shaving their beards during the playoffs. Playoff beards were introduced by ice hockey players participating in the Stanley Cup playoffs, and are now a tradition in many sports leagues. Many fans of professional sports teams also grow playoff beards. The player stops shaving when his team enters the playoffs and does not shave until his team is eliminated or wins the Stanley Cup (or equivalent championship). The tradition was started in the 1980s by the New York Islanders;[1] and according to Islander Mike Bossy, was likely started by team-mate Butch Goring. The tradition is also practiced by nearly all North American hockey leagues, including high school leagues and the NCAA hockey teams, as well as minor league affiliates.[2] 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 are examples of players who did this.[3][4][5]


It is unknown 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."[6] The 1980 Islanders included two Swedish players (Stefan Persson and Anders Kallur), so it is possible that tennis champion 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.[7] Some players have said the beard is both a reminder of team unity and a way to get a player thinking about the playoffs from the moment he looks in the mirror in the morning.[6] 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 of both teams (and the owner of the Penguins, Mario Lemieux) grew beards.

In 2009, the Beard-a-thon[8] 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.[9]

In June 2015, Mark Lazarus, chairman of NBC Sports (who is the U.S. rightsholder of the league), told the Chicago Tribune that he had been lobbying the NHL to discourage the practice, arguing that it hinders the ability for viewers to recognize players.[10]

Other sports[edit]

The playoff beard has expanded into Major League Baseball (MLB), the Canadian Football League (CFL), the National Football League (NFL) and, to a lesser extent, the National Basketball Association (NBA).[11] The practice generally resembles that of ice hockey, in that players don't shave until they either win a championship or are eliminated.

American football[edit]


  • The Boston Red Sox featured many players who grew beards during the team's 2013 season. "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."[16] 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.[17] Fans all over joined the team in solidarity as good luck to win the 2013 World Series. On October 23, 2013, Business Insider posted pictures of the Red Sox players with and without their good luck charms.[18] 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.[19]




  • Starting in the late 1970s, five-time Wimbledon champion Björn Borg used to let his beard grow prior to that particular tournament. Referring to that custom, Sports Illustrated published an article about Borg shortly before the 1981 Wimbledon tournament titled, "The beard has begun."[26]


  • An October 2014 skit shows Team Penske personnel growing "Chase beards", including female staff.[27]

Fan beards[edit]

Fans often grow beards as a sign of support while their favorite team is in the playoffs.

Outside of sports[edit]

  • Male students at some universities in the United States, Canada, Sweden and New Zealand have also begun to sport an academic variation on the playoff beard - not shaving between the period when regular classes end and their final exam.[29]
  • in 1960, partly to distance themselves from non-contributing teammate Aad van Wijngaarden (known for taking credit for the work of others), scientists Edsger W. Dijkstra and Jaap Zonneveld agreed to not shave until they completed the Electrologica ALGOL 60 compiler.[30]

Other playoff hair[edit]


  1. ^ Ryan Kennedy (2006-05-02). "Wooly Bullies". The Hockey News. Retrieved 2007-05-04.[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ Doyle Woody (2007-04-28). "Assessing the Aces playoff beard efforts". Anchorage Daily News. Retrieved 2007-05-04.[dead link]
  3. ^ Rich Chere & Bridget Wentworth (2007-04-29). "Ottawa watches chance slip by". Star Ledger. Retrieved 2007-05-04.
  4. ^ Chicago Breaking Sports (2010-05-08). "Assessing the Aces playoff beard efforts". Tribune News Services. Retrieved 2010-07-12.
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b Ian Walker, Montreal Gazette (2011-04-13). "The Playoff Beard Mystique".[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ Podnieks, Andrew. Hockey Superstitions: From Playoff Beards to Crossed Sticks and Lucky Socks, McClelland & Stewart Ltd., 2010, ISBN 978-0-7710-7108-9, pp. 8-9.
  8. ^ Beard-a-thon Archived 2009-04-11 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "BEARD-A-THON is back: Fans called to grow beard". 2013-04-29.
  10. ^ "NBC Sports boss: Shave the hockey playoff beards". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 9 June 2015.
  11. ^ Trey Kerby (2010-04-19). "The Los Angeles Lakers are growing playoff beards".
  12. ^ Neveau, James. "Trubisky, Fellow Bears QB's Growing Beards for Playoffs". NBC Chicago. Retrieved 2019-03-27.
  13. ^ Payne, Marissa (January 27, 2015). "Michael Bennett, Richard Sherman and Marshawn Lynch put on for Super Bowl Media Day". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
  14. ^ "Julian Edelman, Tom Brady working overtime to re-establish connection". ESPN. January 7, 2015. Retrieved November 11, 2015.
  15. ^ John Branch (2006-01-18). "Quarterbacks growing wild". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-05-04.
  16. ^ Billy Baker. "Diehard Red Sox supporters bond over their beards". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2013-10-24.
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ Tony Manfred (October 23, 2013). "Photos Of Red Sox Players Before And After They Had Playoff Beards". Business Insider. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
  19. ^ unknown. "Playoff Baseball and Beard Tugs". What The Huff. Archived from the original on 2013-10-29. Retrieved 2013-10-24.
  20. ^ Mary Schmitt Boyer (2007-04-24). "LeBron says ankle won't keep him out". The Plain Dealer. Archived from the original on 2015-09-24. Retrieved 2007-05-04.
  21. ^ "Beards be gone: Mavs beat Hornets to get back to .500, earn much-needed shave". The Dallas Morning News. Associated Press. April 14, 2013. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
  22. ^
  23. ^ Martin Rogers (2007-11-15). "Houston's growth potential". Yahoo Sports. Retrieved 2007-11-16.
  24. ^ "Houston Dynamo Reaches MLS Cup Final". Huffington Post. 2011-11-07.
  25. ^
  26. ^ Curry Kirkpatrick. "The Beard Has Begun". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2013-05-26.
  27. ^ The Penske Files: Who’s the Penske prankster and taking Chase beards to an extreme - NBC Sports, 16 October 2014
  28. ^ "St. Louis Beards". American Public Media. October 28, 2006. Archived from the original on January 9, 2016. Retrieved October 12, 2015.
  29. ^ Olivia Solon (2005-02-04). "Beginning the finals countdown". Cherwell24. Archived from the original on May 19, 2006. Retrieved 2007-05-04.
  30. ^ van Emden, Maarten (2012-06-14). "I remember Edsger Dijkstra (1930–2002)". Retrieved 2010-12-22.
  31. ^ Greg Wyshynski (2010-04-14). "Patrick Kane rejects playoff beard in favor of 'trashy' mullet".
  32. ^ Tim Sassone (2010-04-16). "Hawks throw some 'Dirt' on Kane's new hairstyle".
  33. ^ Jean Lefebvre (2008-04-10). "Flames take Game 1". Archived from the original on 2016-01-09.

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