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Thursday, June 3, 2010

2010 Wendel Clark All-Stars

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Athletes are a strange breed. Routine and superstition bordering on OCD rules many. Some routines are as innocuous as eating the same meal every game day, while others are as odorous and disgusting as peeing on your own hands (yes, I’m talking about you Jorge Posada). Allegedly, Jorge pees on his hands to toughen them up and that's why he doesn't need to wear batting gloves.

During the playoffs, when a player’s season is on the line, superstitions and rituals often become more rigid. No one wants to lose the Stanley Cup because they didn’t wear their lucky underwear.

The most widespread playoff tradition in hockey is the playoff beard. Players stop shaving when their teams enter the playoffs and don’t shave until it's all over - whether that be elimination or Stanley Cup victory.

Some players, like Henrik Zetterberg, grow their beard and keep it year round, deciding to emulate their Viking ancestors with a magnificent mane. I’m going to say that Zetterberg does this because he plays like every game is a playoff game. Go with it.

The originators of the playoff beard are widely credited as being the New York Islanders in the 1980s. Although, the tradition might be a little older than that. Dave Lewis said the tradition actually started during the Islanders’ playoff run in 1975, which was the first time the team made the post-season.

"I recall that playoff beards were an important part of every playoff we were in," Lewis said. "Part of the rationale was that it was a symbol that this was a different time, separate from the regular season. It was the championship season. It was also part of the unity of our team and I think we thought we probably looked a little more rugged with beards. (via NHL.com)

The Islanders grew out their beards and won four consecutive Stanley Cups. Was it the power of the beards or was it just the product of having multiple future Hall of Famers like Bryan Trottier? I'll go with beards.

However, the playoff beard tradition did not catch on until the 90s. The Edmonton Oilers did not grow out beards as a team, nor did the Montreal Canadiens or Calgary Flames (the other Stanley Cup winners of the 80s).

The 1994 New York Rangers notably refused to grow playoff beards because it was started by the rival Islanders. You can’t support your rivals, even if it means looking like a badass.

The tradition seemed to resume with the New Jersey Devils in 1995 and teams have embraced it on a wider scale ever since.

Some see the playoff beard as a silly superstition that operates at a minimal 6.25% efficiency (only 1 of 16 playoff teams will lift Lord Stanley’s mug), but I like to think of it more as an act of solidarity and camaraderie. These are the men you’re going to battle with every night and it’s an easy way to feel connected to each other.

In 2003, J.S. Giguere stated that both he and his wife hated his playoff beard, which was thicker than a Northern Ontario forest, but he did it for the team.

Of course, not all beards are created equal. For every J.S. Giguere, there is a Sidney Crosby. Poor Sid grew a wispy moustache envied by every 12-year-old male across the country. But you have to give credit to Crosby for sticking with his teammates, despite looking like a Quebecois smut peddler.

In honour of the best playoff beards this post-season I present the first annual Wendel Clark All-Stars.



W – Claude Giroux

I’ve got to give some love to all the gingers out there, especially with all this Kick a Ginger non-sense. Not only is Giroux tearing up the playoffs as a sophmore, but he's got a glorious beard that Sidney Crosby dreams of. Giroux is like a super ginger when the Flyers play in their home orange. Thick and fiery, just like Groundskeeper Willie.


C – Joe Thornton

This is the first time that Thornton has made it far enough in the playoffs to sport anything more than a thick 5 o’clock shadow. He very narrowly edges out teammate Patrick Marleau for the centre position, but Joe’s been battered by critics for so long that it’s nice to give him some sort of playoff award. It's not like he's going to win a Conn Smythe anytime soon.



W – Simon Gagne

Gagne is doing his best to disprove the stereotype that centuries of Quebec in-breeding has caused genetics that only allow men to grow beards that come in like Max Lappiere and Danny Briere at best. Too far?


D - Brent Seabrook

This spot was supposed to be for Brian Campbell, but there are absolutely no good pictures of Campbell on the net, which suggests that he has done nothing over the Stanley Cup Final. I seriously went through 300 pictures on NHL.com (yes, I'm a lunatic). Plus, that would be way too much love for the gingers. Don't want to give them too much self-confidence. Campbell is lucky I didn't replace him with Brent Sopel's Mexican drug dealer beard.


D – Rob Blake

Blake is definitely the elder statesman on the team which definitely gives him the edge over his younger counterparts. You expect Old Man Blake to bust out a good beard. Thankfully for Blake, his beard doesn’t age him as badly as Scott Niedermayer’s salt and pepper did.


G – Antti Niemi

The goalie position was harder to pick. Ryan Miller started growing his beard earlier than the playoffs, so he doesn’t count. Roberto Luongo was so shaken by the Blackhawks that he actually shaved his playoff beard. And Chris Mason and his woolly mammoth were not in the playoffs. It basically came down to Niemi and Leighton. We’ll give the nod to Niemi since he’s played every game this post-season.


Honourable Mentions: Ben Eager, Kris Versteeg, Patrick Marleau

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Scott Hartnell needs to be on this list. Between the beard and the hair, he looks like a freakin' mountain man.

Anonymous said...

Ville Leino should have gotten a nod somewhere in this list also. His is pretty epic

Anonymous said...

Pretty much every Flyer except Chris Pronger and Brian Boucher have massive beards. That team takes playoff beards REALLY serious.

Roy A. Elliott said...

Hartnell's beard/hair combo is crazy, but I think that he's been growing it before the playoffs started, which makes him ineligible based on my very, very scientific criteria...

Also, Leino was originally tabbed for a winger spot, but after close inspection he's kind of patchy on the sides. Although, he is rocking a totally metal goatee area.

And if I was to give an award for team with the best beard the Flyers would win handily.

Ted Rigby said...

No mention of the Johnny Toews mutton-chops?! Also, Hartnell should take the Mike Commodore Award for ugliest beard/hair combo.

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