Who started the playoff beard in the NHL?

The NHL has many traditions but few are as well known as the "playoff beard." So, who was the first player or team to rock the playoff beard, starting a tradition that went on for decades?

2023 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Five
2023 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Five / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

There are so many NHL traditions that are unique to the sport. The rookie lap is infamous, making the player in his first game take a lonely lap on the ice to start warmups. When a player scores three goals in a game, known as a hat trick, the fans will throw hats on the ice. Many of these traditions occur in the playoffs. There is the playoff handshake, which is one of the most honorable traditions in sports. Less honorable but just as great is the playoff beard.

Most players will throw away the razor the second the playoffs start, showing us everyone's ability to grow a beard and the reason why so many decide to stay clean-shaven. However, there are some beards that are iconic. Brett Burns, who is now on the Carolina Hurricanes, used to grow a serious beard for the playoffs while playing for the San Jose Sharks. Superstar Joe Thornton would grow a matching one for the run.

It's honestly a lot of fun to see players like Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid grow a playoff beard. The different look matches the different stakes that come with playoff hockey. While it is cool, it is curious who started this tradition. Was it something silly, like just a lazy team not looking to shave during a stressful run, or was this a one-person superstition that just built into this giant thing?

Who started the NHL Playoffs beard?

Unlike most hockey traditions, this one is relatively new. While some traditions, like the penalty box and the playoff handshake, are almost 100 years old, this one started in the 1980s. It was one of the most famous dynasties in the history of hockey and one of the greatest in all sports.

The 1980s New York Islanders were dominant. Honestly, the 80s were bizarre. From 1980 to 1990, the Oilers and Islanders won nine of those 11 Stanley Cups. It was a dominant era, and the Islanders started it all, winning the title in four consecutive seasons. While when exactly it was started isn't documented, there are reports that Butch Goring and a few other Islanders players grew these big black beards to bring luck during the playoffs. While some claimed it was a superstition, others say the schedule forced them to forgo shaving. Either way, we're happy it happened.

However, not everyone on those Islanders teams took part. The first team to take part was the 1985 Detroit Red Wings. They were trying to turn around a rough season and called the beards their "playoff beard." Their goal was to win four games in a row, but that season never turned around.

While most are in favor of the beards, you may remember in 2015 when NBC Sports tried to get the NHL to do away with beards. We're not sure how that could happen. Would they try to put a dress code in place like the NBA used to? Doesn't really matter since it went nowhere quick.

It's been more than 40 years, and we have a laundry list of examples of great playoff beards. We'll have even more in 2024. Here's to the playoff beard!

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