If you’re a Golden Knights fan and some of your heroes look, shall we say, different, don’t be alarmed. They’re just following tradition.
The Stanley Cup playoffs are here, and for many players that means not shaving.
Part of it is superstition. Part of it is building team unity. But expect many of the Knights to leave their razors on the bathroom counter and forgo shaving while the team competes in the playoffs.
The widely accepted historical account of how the playoff beard phenomenon started goes back to the New York Islanders’ dynasty of the 1980s that saw the Isles win four straight Stanley Cups from 1980 to 1983. It was more about not wanting to mess with success than making a weird fashion statement.
The tradition didn’t hold while the Edmonton Oilers went on their Stanley Cup run later in the decade. But it has been part of hockey for the last generation or so, and when you look at team photos of Cup winners, you’ll see a bunch of scruffy-looking guys.
Knights veteran defenseman Deryk Engelland got a head start, having had a beard since training camp, though he kept it trimmed in accordance with team policy. It will be an easy conversion for him. Just let it keep growing. In the playoffs, the only rule is you keep playing, you keep growing and you don’t shave until your season is over.
“He cheated a bit there,” said goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who is no stranger to Stanley Cup runs with his three rings with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
But don’t look for Fleury to grow a beard under his mask.
“Maybe a little mustache. Maybe a little something,” Fleury said while rubbing his cheek. “Not much, I guess.”
Several players also started growing their beards before the season ended. William Karlsson has been rocking whiskers for a while. Same with James Neal and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. Colin Miller and Shea Theodore also stopped shaving in an attempt to catch up with Engelland.
Rookie forward Alex Tuch will give it a go.
“I can grow some hair,” he said. “I can thank my mom’s side of the family for that, the Italian side.”
Defenseman Nate Schmidt isn’t sure how far he can take his playoff beard look. But he thinks it’s a cool idea.
“I think it’s a great part of the tradition,” he said. “I think it’s a good part of history of our game. I like the look of it at this time of the year. Otherwise, I like the clean-cut look.”
Bellemare, who sported a short beard all season, will refrain from shaving as long as the Knights are playing.
“It’s a privilege to grow a (playoff) beard because not everyone gets the chance to do so,” he said. “When you have a beard, it’s a sign you accomplished something.”
When Bellemare played for the Philadelphia Flyers, he remembered defenseman Radko Goudas had the best beard.
“It was so thick and bushy,” Bellemare said. “He looked like a caveman.”
Not everyone can grow a beard. The favorite to not look like San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns? Forward Tomas Nosek.
“Nosey would definitely be the top choice,” Schmidt said when it comes to the anti-beard look. “(Erik) Haula, too. But I think he can do better than Nosey.”
Bellemare said while Nosek is a contender, he likes Reilly Smith’s and Haula’s chances of not being able to grow a beard.
“I don’t think they can,” he said with a laugh.
Who: Kings vs. Golden Knights
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
Where: T-Mobile Arena
TV: AT&T SportsNet (Cox 313/1313, DirecTV 684, CenturyLink 760/1760, U-verse 757/1757)
Radio: KRLV (98.9 FM, 1340 AM)
Line: Golden Knights -145; total 5½ under -125