The playoff beard in the National Hockey League playoffs is a longstanding tradition. If your team makes it into the playoffs and goes far without being eliminated, you’ll notice the players’ beards grow and grow and continue to grow the farther the team goes without losing. By the time the Stanley Cup Finals come around, you’ll see a bunch of very large beards.
Why is this?
The main reason for the playoff beard is to bring good luck. Hockey is very much a sport about superstitions, and players like to stick with what works. So when they’re winning in the playoffs, the beard is kept growing because of that longstanding quote we all know and love; “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”
Most hockey historians believe the tradition started in Long Island in the early 1980s, with the New York Islanders. It is also believed that the beards were not a planned occurrence. Bob Nystrom, a key player on those Islander teams shared that the teams’ beards just happened organically. It was more of a superstitious thing to NOT shave them.
The voodoo worked in Nystrom and the Islanders’ favor, as they went on to win four Stanley Cups in a row before being knocked off their throne by the Edmonton Oilers in the 1984 Stanley Cup Finals. Their “tradition”; whether they call it that or not, was soon taken up by the Minnesota North Stars, then later by the New Jersey Devils, and it still is used today.
Some players struggle more than others to grow a beard, and who can blame them! It comes naturally after all. For players such as Brent Burns on the San Jose Sharks, or Joe Thornton on the Maple Leafs, it comes easy to them. For others, it takes a lot more “Beard maintenance” just to get a beard growing.