My informant was a competitive hockey player his entire adolescence and was raised in Elk River Minnesota, a hockey powerhouse. He played Division 1 hockey until an injury caused him to transfer schools where he played Division 3 hockey. His father has been a prominent boys hockey coach and local legend in the state of Minnesota for 26 years.
The “playoff beard” is a tradition that hockey players do where they stop shaving when they enter the play-offs and do not shave again until the team is out of the tournament (or wins). Which results in the stereotypical scruff, mustaches, goatees, or out of control hair seen in hockey players. The playoff beard is a unique practice of the National Hockey League during the Stanley Cup playoffs but has spread to being performed in high school and NCAA teams. My informant participated in this tradition during his time as a hockey player, and noted its importance to the hockey community. My informant said that that they do it “because of superstition.” The tradition started in the 1980s by the New York Islanders, and has grown to be a trademark of hockey.
From personal experience, I have witnessed my high school’s hockey team grow out their facial hair and refuse haircuts when the state tournament came around. Upon my own research, I found that some teams do it to have a sense of team unity. An example of this is seen when the University of Minnesota men’s hockey team all bleached their hair blonde in the 2006-07 post-season. A high school tennis team all gave themselves Mohawks for their trip to the state tournament as well. The growing of hair and beards has been seen in other sports such as tennis, basketball, and football in high school teams or individual athletes. It has also spread to philanthropic organizations such as “Beard-A-Thon” that raises money for each team in the Stanley Cup’s charity, and to the development of the “fan beard,” where fans grow beards to support their team.