Monday, September 24, 2007

Why I Love Hockey - Part 26

Why I Love Hockey #26 - Playoff Beards
One of the first things I loved about hockey was the tradition of playoff beards. You could say it's oddly symbolic - for the next untold number of weeks, we care about hockey above all else and we will show that by not paying attention to what happens to our faces during that time! - but mostly it's a dumb boy bonding thing. And I can get behind that. Hey, whatever works, fellas.

A couple of years ago when the Houston Astros made it to the World Series, some of them grew playoff beards. Despite Jeff Bagwell being a great example of a transformative beard (more on that later), this definitely did not work for me. First of all, the baseball playoffs are pretty short. They start and end in the same month, more or less. What kind of beard can a guy grow in that time? Certainly not one to rival a beard that's grown over the course of the NHL playoffs, a journey so long that it's practically a season unto itself.

The Astros also looked suspiciously like they were trimming their beards every night which is just a crime. I feel very strongly that this goes against the playoff beard code. The very best playoff beard resembles some kind of nest by the end of the postseason. You start growing that sucker and you go with it. If your beard turns out to be gray or oddly colored or especially wiry or poofy, then own it, baby. Let Scott Niedermayer (2006-2007) be your beacon.

I always enjoy seeing which players can grow beards and which ones can't. Jason Pominville was the youngest guy on his line last season and one of the youngest guys on the team but his beard put Jochen Hecht's little goatee and Daniel Briere's soul patch and dusting of fuzz to shame. (Can't you just picture Playoff Briere with a beret and long cigarette holder?) Some players - Paul Gaustad and Chris Drury - seem to sprout full beards pratically overnight though I suspect Drury is a :::gasp::: trimmer. Some guys are forced to work with what little they can get.

The last fun thing about playoff beards is comparing the before and after. Some guys look terrible with their playoff scruff. If I met Ryan Miller in downtown Buffalo during the conference finals, I would fully expect him to be shaking a tin cup and swearing at me after I refused to give him any money. The patchy beard along with the scraggly hair - especially the sweaty post-game hair - was not a good look. (This image is helped along by the fact that as far as I can tell, Ryan dresses like a homeless man.)

On the flip side, you have the transformative beard. If I were related to Brian Campbell in any way - parent, sibling, cousin, girlfriend, friend, gardener - I'd be begging him to keep a full beard all year round because he looks so much better with it. It's truly amazing. Let's compare, shall we?

Here's regular season Brian Campbell. Cute enough but you know, kinda dorky.

Here's postseason Brian Campbell, suddenly a dashingly handsome young man.

We'll close this increasingly frustrating post (#!@##@!@ Blogger and the $#@!@#$ images) with this, my favorite playoff beard, J.P. Dumont, 2005-2006. J.P's beard was truly a thing of beauty - full, thick, and clearly untouched by scissors or razors. He also had that awesome phenomenon going on where his beard consisted of three or four different shades of color, including streaks of bright red. If I'd seen J.P. in downtown Buffalo around the time of the conference finals, I would've crossed the street to avoid him. That's how awesome it was. This picture, while slightly frightening, does not do it justice. Trust me.


Kate said...

clap clap clap clap!

I LOVE the playoff beard. I seriously think the playoff beard played a major role in my becoming a hockey fan. Look at all these lumberjackish guys! Playing sports!

Regular, non-hockey playing guys can benefit from the transformative beard too. Just saying, boys.

amy said...

Great post (and definitely worth the blogger related photo frustration)!

I agree that Soupy's helped by the playoff beard, but he also needs to do something with his hair. Every time I see him, he always has a drowned rat look going on.

Pookie said...

Mmmmm playoff beards..

Heather B. said...

amy, I know exactly what you're saying about Soupy. He always looks like he just got done playing a game even before the game. I like the curls but he'd really be better off going with short hair and a beard, I think.

Heather B. said...

Oh, and I'm glad you enjoyed the photos since they were a big ol' pain in my ass.

brian s. said...

I think playoff beards are one of the things that separates hockey from other sports. And all the beards you posted were pretty killer. I'd throw in Ray Borque when he finally won the cup and Mike Commodore w/the Canes as two other definitive beards.