The All-Time 11 Best Beards in NHL History

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistNovember 17, 2021

The All-Time 11 Best Beards in NHL History

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    It's one of things fans love about hockey.

    No sports league is as conscious of its facial hair chops as the NHL, and players of both old and new schools spend ample time tending to their whiskers to ensure the right flow come game night.

    Toronto sniper Auston Matthews is particularly enamored with his mustache, and said in an upcoming B/R Open Ice interview he's concerned about removing it because "if I shave it off I lose all my power." 

    The "playoff beard" tradition is often traced back to the four-time Stanley Cup champion New York Islanders of the early 1980s, and the practice has crossed over with some players over to the regular season as well.

    Being the 24/7 hockey nuts we are, the B/R ice team took a look at the league's storied facial history and compiled a list of the 11 beards we think set the standard for all who follow.

    Scroll through to see what we came up with, and let us know your favorites in the comments section.

11. Dave Semenko

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    The beard makes the man.

    Or in the case of Dave Semenko, the beard makes the man menacing.

    Best known as Wayne Gretzky's bodyguard, the 6'2", 216-pound winger sported facial hair that accentuated his physical positives and helped earn him the nickname "Jethro."

    He spent parts of eight NHL seasons with Gretzky's Oilers and won two Stanley Cups with them before a trade to the Hartford Whalers in 1986.

    Brief stints with the Whalers and the Toronto Maple Leafs preceded his retirement after the 1987-88 season and later stints as a broadcaster, scout and an assistant coach with Edmonton.

    He played 575 NHL games and had 153 points but is far better remembered for the enforcement he provided and the 1,175 penalty minutes that came with it.

    And, yes, the beard was terrifying.

10. Jean-Sebastien Giguere

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    Sometimes, Cinderella needs a shave.

    The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim—yes, that was their name back then—reached the 2002-03 playoffs as a No. 7 seed and were expected to be easy pickings for the defending champion Detroit Red Wings in Round 1.

    Enter Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

    The Montreal-born goaltender parlayed his first winning season in the NHL into an even more successful postseason, backstopping a four-game sweep of the Red Wings and subsequent defeats of the Dallas Stars and Minnesota Wild to reach the Stanley Cup Final against the New Jersey Devils.

    He couldn't do it alone, however, and skated through the handshake line as a non-winner after the Devils triumphed in seven games. Still, the hockey world recognized Giguere's efforts and rewarded him with the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the playoffs after posting a 15-6 record.

    He remains the most recent player from a losing team to win the Conn Smythe.

    Giguere and the Ducks ultimately got their Cup four seasons later, but his 2003 beard—and the guest spot with Jay Leno it helped him land—remains his signature career contribution.

9. The New York Islanders 1980-83

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    Annually imitated. Never duplicated.

    Though they didn't work their whiskers with custom combs and organic oils, the authors of the NHL's most recent four-year run as champions were the originators of superstitious springtime facial hair.

    All hail the New York Islanders.

    Then residents of the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, the Islanders made Long Island the place to be with consecutive defeats of the Philadelphia Flyers, Minnesota North Stars, Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers while winning a major sports record of 19 straight playoff series.

    Players such as Ken Morrow, Clark Gillies, John Tonelli and Butch Goring emerged from obscurity not only because of their play but also for their clean-shaven faces in early April that transformed into gruff, rugged visages by the time late May arrived.

    They were symbolic of the methodically effective way in which the team played, and the group remains the standard-bearer for the playoff beard practice even four decades later.

8. Brent Burns

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    Giguere to the NHL: "I'm going to be on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."

    Brent Burns to Giguere: "Hold my razor."

    The mammoth winger-turned-defenseman has made the league his personal styling salon since arriving with the Minnesota Wild nearly two full decades ago, and he made the full-on crossover a thing a few years back when he appeared as the character "Skane" on the History Channel series Vikings.

    His appearance on the show necessitated extensions being sewn into his own lustrous mane for shooting in Ireland, and Burns took advantage of the accessory by wearing the flow out to local pubs.

    "I got all his own hair back into a bunch, and I sewed with a needle and threaded this long braid into his hair," stylist Dee Corcoran told The Athletic. "I sewed it and put elastics on it, and it was nearly sewed into his brain. Then I bound all that with long, leather strips. It stays in all day long."

    Back on the ice, Burns is a six-time All-Star, a three-time Norris Trophy finalist and a one-time winner of the award, which honors the league's best defenseman. He was also nominated in 2017 for the Ted Lindsay Award, which goes to the league's best player as voted by the NHL Players' Association.

    But it all goes back to the beard.

7. Scott Niedermayer

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    Don't think a salt-and-pepper look can work for an NHL player?

    We present Scott Niedermayer.

    Though the Edmonton native won a mantel's worth of hardware—including three Stanley Cups—during his early career with the New Jersey Devils, he took the beard up a distinguished notch upon teaming up with his brother Rob and fellow blue-line stalwart Chris Pronger to win a fourth chalice with the Ducks in 2007.

    A subtly greying Niedermayer was a few months ahead of birthday No. 34 when he lifted the Cup for the final time and earned the Conn Smythe Trophy thanks to a 26-game playoff run in which he produced 11 points.

    His play was stellar, and his beard, as labeled by, was "bodacious."

    Altogether, his 1,263-game career yielded 740 points, five All-Star Game appearances, a Norris Trophy and the aforementioned four championships, and the Devils retired his No. 27 jersey in 2011. The Ducks followed suit in 2019.

6. Jaromir Jagr

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    Where Niedermayer introduced the salt-and-pepper concept, Jaromir Jagr perfected it.

    And whether the now-49-year-old Czech ever scores another goal, we hope he never stops playing.

    A two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Pittsburgh Penguins three decades ago, Jagr is still working the room with the Rytiri Kladno team that represents his hometown.

    He headed there after being let go by the Calgary Flames in 2018 and was still prolific in 2020-21, scoring 22 points in 35 combined regular season and playoff games.

    He spent parts of 24 NHL seasons with nine teams and scored at least a goal with each of them, in addition to the pair of Cups, 13 All-Star Games, five scoring titles and an MVP.

    His beard game is just as strong.

    The unique version he rocked with the Boston Bruins during their run to the 2013 finals was described as "less a beard, more nineteenth-century Wild West bartender's muttonchops," and his flow also inspired a "The Jagr's BeardTwitter handle that deemed the veteran's whiskers "the sexiest beard in the history of faces."

5. Scott Hartnell

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    If the folks at Geico need a stand-in for Animal, Scott Hartnell's a natural.

    The burly winger spent 17 seasons in the NHL and scored more than 300 goals across stints with three teams, but there's a good chance he's most identified by his playoff beard.

    He grew it while reaching the postseason six times in seven seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers, and it made him an ice-skating, puck-dishing version of The Muppet Show drummer, whose hair was so frenetic that it became difficult to tell where it began and ended.

    And in Hartnell's case, it was also a challenge to see the boundary line between the beard and his chest hair, particularly when he grew a four-month lockout beard during the NHL's work stoppage in 2012-13.

    He scored a career-high 37 goals with the Flyers during the 2011-12 regular season and was with the team during a 23-game playoff run that saw Philadelphia reach the Stanley Cup Final before losing to the Chicago Blackhawks.

    Hartnell retired after spending 2017-18 with the Nashville Predators and ended with 707 points in 1,249 games, but, again, the beard was far greater than the sum of its grower's parts.

4. Mike Commodore

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    Hey, Geico, about that Animal thing.

    If Hartnell doesn't work out, may we suggest Mike Commodore.

    A 6'4", 227-pound winger, Commodore played parts of 11 seasons with seven NHL teams, but he, like Hartnell, is known as much for the beards he grew during playoff runs as for anything else he accomplished.

    A 20-game playoff run with the Calgary Flames ended with a loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2004 Stanley Cup Final, but he rebounded two years later to play 25 games and hoist the Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes after their seven-gamer with the Edmonton Oilers.

    His beard was so epic, in fact, that it was referenced by President George W. Bush during the team's celebratory trip to the White House.

    "It's a pretty big deal for a guy that doesn't know how to ice skate to welcome the Carolina Hurricanes to the White House," he said. "... I'm not sure what is prettier, the Stanley Cup, or Mike Commodore's hair.

    "A little disappointed you got a haircut."

    Commodore shaved the 2004 and 2006 beards and put the fuzz up for bidding to raise money for the V Foundation for Cancer Research, indicating he's more than just a pretty beard.

3. Henrik Lundqvist

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    Henrik Lundqvist retired in August after an NHL run that spanned 15 seasons, yielded 459 wins and a combined 74 regular-season and playoff shutouts.

    The "King's" playing and growing skills were on full display in the spring of 2014, when he helped his New York Rangers to the brink of a first Stanley Cup in 20 years before losing to the Los Angeles Kings.

    He posted a 2.14 goals-against average and a .927 save percentage in 25 postseason games for those Rangers, then returned the following year to help them reach the Eastern Conference final before a seven-game loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. 

    All told, Lundqvist was a five-time nominee for the Vezina Trophy, won the award in 2012 and played in five All-Star Games. And as evidenced by his guitar chops, he's got other skills, too. 

2. Lanny McDonald

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    Nothing like riding off into the sunset with a championship parade.

    But Lanny McDonald had something neither John Elway nor Peyton Manning or Ray Bourque could boast.

    A kick-ass playoff beard.

    Then-36 years old, the veteran of 16 NHL seasons and the fluffy red mustache added furry ginger-tinged chin whiskers to the package and helped the Calgary Flames to their first title in franchise history.

    It was also the first title win for McDonald, who'd racked up 500 regular-season goals while spending time with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Colorado Rockies and the Flames. He played two of the first five games in the 1989 title series against the Montreal Canadiens but was reinserted for Game 6 and scored a goal that gave Calgary a lead it never relinquished on the way to a 4-2 win.

    He was the first player to skate with the Cup and announced his retirement three months later.

    A great final chapter for the greatest playoff beard ever.

1. Joe Thornton

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    Joe Thornton was playing NHL hockey in the 1990s.

    And even though he's older, slower and less prolific than the version who was picked first overall by the Boston Bruins in 1997, his beard is every bit as spectacular as it's been since it began.

    In fact, when regular and postseasons are combined, it's the best the league has ever seen.

    The 6'4", 220-pounder began growing it during the 2015-16 season, and it first became a bushy, unruly mass by the schedule's midway point before morphing to Yukon Cornelius territory by the start of the Stanley Cup Final in which Thornton's San Jose Sharks met the Pittsburgh Penguins.

    "Jumbo Joe" didn't win a Cup that year, but the facial hair has been a steady force ever since aside from a few clean-shaven intervals. He's in season No. 24 with team No. 4, the Florida Panthers, and has reintroduced the beard as he continues to chase a first championship at age 42.

    And regardless of how the latest trophy chase goes, it's clear that Thornton retains respect around the league for his All-Star-caliber beard game.

    "He's 10 out of 10," said Toronto's Matthews, a teammate of Thornton's with the Maple Leafs in 2020-21. "There's nobody in the world like him. That beard's incredible. I don't know how he can handle it.

    "It's like when you look in your couch for the first time in 10 months and you just find quarters and crumbs and nickels. You can find anything in there."