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
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.
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.