When the Islanders won four consecutive Stanley Cups in the early 1980s, they didn't just start a hockey dynasty, they also initiated another tradition that will live and grow far beyond faded memories of Denis Potvin, Bryan Trottier and Mike Bossy. That tradition? The playoff beard.
That's because a few weeks of not shaving, growing a playoff beard in a sign of team solidarity, has taken on a life of its own 32 years later.
Now, it's customary for every player on every playoff team to ditch the razor as an act of superstition before the hockey gods. Playoff beards come in many forms—large and out of control, well groomed, mustache and goatee. There are even those young players not able to grow a true beard at all.
But no matter the shape or size, it's about the bond between teammates with fan participation creating a unified front.
Even the most casual fan dons a playoff beard at this point, beginning the growing process on Day 1 of the playoffs and not ridding themselves of facial hair until their team wins the cup or is eliminated from contention.
The advent of the Beard-A-Thon in recent years ties in a charitable aspect, raising money for each playoff teams' individual charity. In the past four years, more than $2 million has been raised by the foundation.
Playoff beards are one of the many unique elements that make the NHL playoffs so fantastic and so intriguing to watch.
They're just another reason of Why We Watch.
Zach Hill, Philadelphia Flyers
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Mike Levine, New Jersey Devils