The History of NHL Playoff Beards

There isn’t an avid NHL fan on the planet who is not fully aware of the fact that hockey stars have a long history of rocking beards during the playoffs. However, not all fans are familiar with how this tradition started, what it represents and the fact that it is, in fact, more controversial than many realize. There is a long and storied history for NHL playoff beards, leading up to the most recent events that put this tradition at risk, despite its massive popularity among fans of the sport.

How the NHL Playoff Beard Tradition Started (Probably)

The origins are a bit murky, and we are certain that some aspects of the history have been dramatized over the years, but here is what the official story says. Essentially, the playoff beard tradition in the NHL is based on superstition, which theorizes that shaving or cutting one’s beard during playoff season is bad luck for the team. And so, each team keeps their beards growing until they are actually eliminated from the tournament.

It is believed to have started with the New York Islanders from Long Island back in the middle part of the 1980s. The story goes that when the team began the Stanley Cup tournament in 1984, they just so happened to notice that almost all of the members had grown beards. So, they decided that it would be fun to keep the beards as long as they were participating in the playoffs. At some point, it was decided that to shave the beards would be bad luck for the outcome of the event. And, legend has it that other teams quickly followed in their footsteps, turning it into a full-on tradition that has persisted to this day.

Now, there is another side of the story according to NHL analyst Ken Daneyko, who was on the team that year. According to him, they were paying homage to Islanders from the past who had won the cup, during a time when many of them happened to be bearded. Essentially, it was a way of tributing the players who came before them.

Regardless of the exact incentive for keeping those beards long, it is clear that NHL playoff beards have become a tradition that the NHL at large really enjoys taking part in. Many men grow their beards with pride, and see who can grow the longest beard of all.

How the Tradition Continues Today

Over the years, the playoff beard tradition has gotten more complicated. For example, some players argue that trimming it at all would be a sin, while others believe that as long as there is a beard, that’s all that matters. And, of course there are plenty of players who choose to opt out of the tradition, either because they simply don’t want to grow a beard, or because they can’t.

The concept of shaving your beard after one losing game in an effort to win the next one has become a new amendment to the long-standing tradition, due to one lucky event back in 2010, when Roberto Luongo shaved his off in desperation, only for his team to win the next game.

Also, the concept of the playoff beard has expanded into other sports, including the NFL and the MLB, following the same general rules.

Some aren’t fans of the tradition, including Mark Lazarus, NBC Sports chairman who infamously called for an end to the playoff beard because he felt that the long, scraggly beards made NHL players “unmarketable.” This was met with enormous criticism, making it clear that the tradition is one that NHL players by and large look forward to witnessing each year.

Beards Simply Make the NHL Playoffs Even Better!

The NHL playoff beards have become synonymous with the playoff season in general, and fans for the most part really look forward to seeing their favorite players rocking absolutely unruly facial hair in an effort to acquire good luck for their team. Despite some criticism of the tradition, it’s clearly here to stay, as fans have spoken up in favor of supporting their team’s superstition.

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