By Adam Brady
This feature also appears in Ducks Digest, the official publication of the Anaheim Ducks.
It is a Stanley Cup tradition almost as engrained as the Cup itself. The longer and thicker it gets, the better you’re doing. And there is a certain point of pride in growing one to the point of unruliness and maximum scruffiness.
It’s the playoff beard, a long-held tradition in which players grow their facial hair at the start of the postseason and refuse to shave until their team is either eliminated or they are lifting the Cup over their heads.
The custom is believed to have started with the great New York Islanders teams of the 1980s, which must have been doing something right, since they won four straight Cups. Some say it goes back to the elite Montreal teams of the late ‘70s. Either way, it has spread well beyond the NHL – to minor, junior and European leagues and, in the case of the Ducks, even to many of the male team employees.
The frequent itchiness and grumblings of wives and girlfriends is a small price to pay for such a sacred custom. Among the legendary Ducks, Teemu Selanne and Scott Niedermayer each had bodacious beards by the time they captured the Cup with a Game 5 victory over Ottawa in the Stanley Cup Final. Goalie J.S. Giguere did not grow one that year, but had a strikingly thick one by the time he was handed the Conn Smyth Trophy in a seven-game defeat to New Jersey in the 2003 Final.
For most of the current Ducks, growing playoff beards is on the agenda, with high hopes that they will be forced to keep it for a very long time. Although, some players have greater expectations for their whiskers than others.
I actually have a pretty manly playoff beard, even though I do not enjoy having facial hair. It itches, and I get made fun of around here because I’m a bit of a germaphobe. I like keeping clean and nicely shaven. But I do it because it’s an important tradition. It’s the profession I’ve chosen, and I’ve been lucky enough to go on some long playoff runs and grow it out because of it. You tough it out because it’s that sort of bunker mentality. Everyone grows one, and I look forward to having a beard for over eight weeks coming up.
I’ve got a little something going, not too much. When it grows, it comes in pretty thick. It’s nothing special, nothing really to brag about. I usually grow it out, but I’ve got to start like a month and a half before. It takes quite a bit of time. Once it gets going, it’s greasy and nasty.
I’m pretty excited about it. I had a little one going last year when we were in Syracuse [of the AHL], but it was only for a week or two. I’m really looking forward to it this year. It comes in very fast for me. It gets thick, but it doesn’t really grow that long. I don’t think I’ve gone past two weeks or so, because it can look pretty bad.
I’ve done it in the past and I’m going to do it again. I don’t trim it. I just let it get wild. Pretty soon my face will turn a shade of red from the hair color.
It’s part of the tradition and I don’t trim it at all. It gets pretty good.
I’ve been trying every time, but my growth isn’t strong. It’s tough to tell. Trust me, I don’t have to touch it. It’s barely there.
I’ve been working on once since Christmas, but as you can see, it’s not really successful so I’ll probably have to skip that. To be honest, there’s not a whole lot growing. Secondly, I don’t really like it under the mask. It starts to get really itchy, and I never really got into it. I tried a couple times, but it [felt] more annoying than having it help me.
Yeah, I’ll be growing one. It won’t be much, so I’m not going to trim it or clean it up.
Meanwhile, opinions vary on who will have the best and worst beards, but one young Duck was an almost unanimous choice:
“Palms” [Kyle Palmieri] would be top 3 on the team for sure, since he’s so hairy anyway. I bet Bobby can grow a pretty good one. We have a pretty clean-cut team for the most part. The worst would probably be Viktor [Fasth]. Probably the nastiest and grossest is Sami [Vatanen].
Palmieri is a fairly hairy dude, so I think he would grow a very grizzly beard. As for the others, some of these European guys might struggle. Viktor [Fasth] seems into his appearance, and I look forward to seeing him and Jonas try and grow nice beards.
I’d say I’m in the running for the best, but there will be a couple guys who can definitely grow a nice one. Bobby already has a good one at times. I’ve seen pictures of “T” [Teemu Selanne] from ’07. I expect him to have a good one.
Palmieri is good, Beauch [Francois Beauchemin] might be good. Maybe Sheldon [Souray]. Bryan Allen might be a sneaky strong playoff beard guy. The worst would be me, maybe Viktor. I don’t think Hillsy [Hiller] has a good one.”
Palmieri would have the best, probably. Bobby Ryan’s looking pretty good right now. Shelly [Souray], the new addition, I don’t know how he’s looking. Daniel Winnik could be a good one too. It’s definitely interesting. Corey Perry would be the worst. It’s out there. I don’t want to throw myself under the bus, but it’s Corey Perry.
“Palms.” I mean, just look at his face. The worst would probably be me or Toni Lydman.
Shelly, Palmieri, Bobby. I don’t know about Daniel Winnik’s beard. For the worst? I’d go with Teemu. He’s got that weird jawline beard thing going on.”
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