Playoff beards during the NHL playoffs might just be professional hockey’s most endearing quality.
Forget the fact that the intensity level is ratcheted up, oh, 11 notches for the playoffs –- take Saturday night’s game between Boston and Montreal, with five goals coming in the last 10 minutes of the game — and that the players look like they absolutely could not skate any harder.
This is noticeably different from other major team sports, professional or otherwise, with the exception of March Madness, which speaks for itself.
In the NHL playoffs, the players manage to work harder and skate faster with an evergrowing portfolio of facial hair.
The plain and simple fact is that the playoff beard ranks up there with the best, most often overlooked rituals of any sport.
Mint juleps and outlandish hats at the Kentucky Derby, the champion’s dinner menu after the Masters, what used to be Keith Jackson calling the Granddaddy of Them All and several others fall into this esteemed category.
More sports should adopt the superstitious, spiritual, badass nexus that is the playoff beard. When I see the beards under the helmets I think two things. Well, OK, probably three things.
2. This is why playoff hockey is great.
3. Spring is here -– summer is on its way. (Yes I think in emdashes.)
I’ve also incorporated the ritual into my own life by foregoing shaving my saintly visage during golf tournaments, whether I’m playing or caddying, and generally try to avoid shaving on days that I do play.
Odds are that’s too much information, but I’m going to keep going.
See, the key here is that the playoff beard is at once underappreciated, unique and a sign of spring.
Golfers are returning to their homes away from home: the links. We all head down to the beach on days like last Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday (we were blessed with quite the stretch of weather, weren’t we?).
Professors often accommodate and/or make concessions to the triumphant return of 75 and sunny. Baseball returns to Centennial Field -– something you should all try to do before school’s out, it’s an incredible old park -– and the Sox are scrapping with the Yanks.
Flowers are blooming, trees budding and playoff beards thickening (and with a succession of seven-game series, we could get some bushy ones by the end of May).
Spring is in the air, and I’m oh-so-happy for it.
So long, snow.