The great wide HAIRY world of sports
Facial hair has always been prominent in the world of sports, but never as prominent than during the National Hockey League (NHL) playoffs.
The ‘playoff beard’ is one of the biggest and longest standing traditions in hockey, starting with the 1980 New York Islanders team who went on to become Stanley Cup Champions later that year.
Players and their fans refuse to shave until their team has been eliminated from the post season or has won the league championship, though some players have been known to trim their playoff beard after a few losses in order to try and turn the team around.
The Trojans are no exception to the playoff beard tradition. Most junior level teams such as the Trojans and the Calgary Hitmen start to try their luck at growing thick beards during the post-season to possibly guide the hand of fate and give them the edge they need to win.
“When playoffs roll around, I try to grow out a playoff beard as best I can,” said SAIT Trojans forward Ben O’Quinn. “Most guys on the team that can grow a beard do [it] for the post-season.”
This superstition is so important to some players that they are willing to change their entire look in order to adhere to the guidelines of the myth.
“I already have a beard during the regular season, but I trim it and keep it in line,” said fourth-year Trojan, Brad Drobot. “But when playoffs roll around, I’ll stop trimming it and just let it grow wild.”
The NHL is not the only professional league where playoff beards have played a prominent role. Some members of the 2013 Major League Baseball (MLB) World Series champions, the Boston Red Sox, started growing beards during the MLB pre-season. Only a few players began showing signs of facial hair, but as the team continued to win, more beards started to appear, until the team’s entire roster was sporting some form of facial hair.
In the National Football League (NFL) Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, grew a playoff beard during the 2005 playoffs, and in Superbowl XL, the Steelers defeated the Seattle Seahawks to win their fifth Superbowl in franchise history. The beard may not have been the only reason the Steelers won, but it did draw the team closer at a vital spot in the season.
The playoffs are not the only time that facial hair becomes obvious in the NHL. Movember has become a huge presence as some players try their best to grow a moustache in just a month to promote awareness of prostate cancer. Even former TSN Sportscentre hosts Jay Onrait and Dan O’Toole started growing moustaches every November since 2011 to raise awareness and money for charities.
“It’s great how much awareness Jay and Dan have raised,” Drobot said. “The fact they are taking time to grow moustaches for a great cause is amazing.”
Great Facial Hair in Sports
Lanny sported his iconic moustache for the entirety of his career, but during Calgary’s Stanley Cup run in 1989, he grew a full beard to accompany it. You can’t walk past Lanny without recognizing his ‘stache, which he still has to this day.
In the summer before the 2010 NFL season, Keisel started growing his beard that he has named ‘Da-Beard.’ That season, the now Viking-esque Keisel helped lead the Pittsburgh Steelers to the Superbowl. At the end of every season, Keisel shaves his beard and raises money for charity.
Before the 1972 season, the owner of the MLB’s Oakland Athletics offered a prize to the player who could grow the best facial hair by Opening day. Rollie grew a moustache and waxed it in a style similar to those popular in the 1800s. The waxed moustache look stuck and Fingers kept it throughout his Hall of Fame career.
Wilson and fellow relief pitcher Sergio Ramo of the San Francisco Giants started to grow out beards during the 2010 MLB season. The beards started to gain fame as fans brought signs and wore T-shirts that read “Fear the Beards.” Wilson even dyed his beard jet black to help it become more pronounced. That season, Wilson and the rest of the Giants won the 2010 World Series.