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. After the Islanders dynasty ended in 1984, the playoff beard tradition was lost but then was brought back in 1995 by the New Jersey Devils who used the beards. After the Devils won the Stanley Cup, the beard has been used ever since. 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.
Some hockey programs, however, use other superstitions, often in conjunction with the playoff beard. For example, in the 2006-2007 post-season, the entire University of Minnesota men's hockey team bleached their hair blonde. In accordance with the tradition, mascot Goldy Gopher and FSN anchor Doug Woog sported blonde wigs. Also, the SUNY Oswego Lakers of Division III dyed their hair black that same season. They went on to win the national championship.
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.
Playoff beards have also become a trend for hockey fans once their team enters the playoffs. Notable examples of this are fans of the 2006-07 Buffalo Sabres whose loyal contingency display rules for grooming, dealing with skeptical supervisors and unappreciative significant others. 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. Alternately, during the same 2003 NHL Playoffs, Anaheim's #1 center (and future Hall of Famer) 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 2009 Red Wings used the slogan "The beard is back" for their '09 Stanley Cup Finals run.
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.
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