SI Vault
 
Hair-raising Superstition
Steve Rushin
May 15, 2006
My favorite tradition in all of sports is the playoff beard, which turns every hockey player this time of year into a slap-shootin' Rasputin.
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
May 15, 2006

Hair-raising Superstition

View CoverRead All Articles

My favorite tradition in all of sports is the playoff beard, which turns every hockey player this time of year into a slap-shootin' Rasputin.

You can keep the layoff beard (grown by Ricky Williams in his yearlong absence from the NFL). You can have the payoff beard (worn by Johnny Damon, Ben Roethlisberger and Tim Hudson, all of whose close shaves fetched cash).

No, I'll take the playoff beard, a hockey institution that elevates the Stanley Cup, by a whisker, above all other postseason competitions.

In hockey, as in Biblical times, the length of a man's beard is a bar graph of his greatness. "The guys who don't have a beard right now wish they did," says red-bearded Anaheim Mighty Ducks forward Todd Fedoruk. "If you don't look like Grizzly Adams right now, as a hockey player, you know your year has been a failure."

Beards, as NBA players are just now discovering, grow on you. All season long Pau Gasol wore a spectacular black beard as a member of the Memphis Grizzlies: He's possibly the league's first player-mascot. The Cleveland Cavaliers are sporting playoff beards, but they lack the menace of their hockey counterparts. The beard of Avalanche defenseman Rob Blake screams "hell-raiser." The beard of Cavs' center Zydrunas Ilgauskas screams "barn-raiser."

In fact, when the Avs filed past their hotel pool in Southern California last Saturday, other guests cowered beneath their beach towels. "They thought we were some of the best-dressed bikers they'd ever seen," says Blake.

Fedoruk can still see the hellfire issuing from an Avalanche veteran's chin during the 2001 Stanley Cup finals. "One of the great [beards], off the top of my head, was Ray Bourque's," he says. "It was crimson and fierce-looking."

Off the bottom of my head, the best playoff beard in NHL history belonged to Flames forward Lanny McDonald, whose enormous red flavor-saver overscored a cinnamon-and-pepper beard that made him look like the wagon-train cook in every Western.

Ducks forward Rob Niedermayer prefers the chin nest of NHL journeyman Dave Lowry. "You could hide a bird in it," Niedermayer swears.

The Islanders dynasty of the early '80s established beards as a lucky playoff talisman. Soon, even Montreal's Adams Division was a Grizzly Adams Division, and ever since, almost everyone who has raised the Stanley Cup has looked like Karl Marx.

Continue Story
1 2