When the sight of “playoff beards” becomes more and more frequent, it is most likely Stanley Cup hockey season. Between the months of March to April, during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, NHL (National Hockey League) players and fans begin growing out their beards in hopes of taking home the championship. My informant, a hockey player himself, explains the tradition: “When playoffs begin, players don’t shave until their team is knocked out of the tournament or until their team wins the Stanley Cup. Fans do this too to show their support for their team.”
Although he cannot remember precisely when the tradition began, my informant says that the tradition probably began when a team had back-to-back games in a single series (in which two teams compete to win best out of 7 games). If this is the case, they may not have had a chance to shave, or did not care enough, since the playoffs were on their minds. My informant explains that the tradition eventually turned into superstition: the bigger and thicker the beard, the better chance of winning the Cup.
In doing more research on the “playoff beard,” the majority of sources state that the tradition began in 1980 by the New York Islanders, “when the team won the first of four straight Cups (1980-83)” (Podnieks 8). After their Stanley Cup winning streak, other teams dared not imitate the Islanders’ tradition, but were unsuccessful in winning the championship. Therefore, it became superstition that a team cannot win the Cup unless they embrace the beard philosophy. Over decades, the tradition and superstition has been reinforced because every year, the team that does win the Stanley Cup has full beards. Yet, this also may be due to the fact that the beard philosophy has caught on. All teams in the playoffs have players growing out their beards!
Podnieks, Andrew. Hockey Superstitions: From Playoff Beards to Crossed Sticks and Lucky Socks. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 2010. Print.