The playoff beard is a superstitious tradition among North American sports teams, particularly those of the National Hockey League (NHL), in which players do not shave their facial hair while competing in postseason play in order to bring their teams luck. This practice was started by the NHL’s New York Islanders in 1980, and has since become a ritual among most NHL teams. The playoff beard tradition has even been adopted by some athletes in other professional and non-professional sports, although it has not attained the same popularity it enjoys among hockey players. Many NHL fans show support for their favorite team by growing a playoff beard, sometimes as part of a charity fundraising initiative.
It is believed that the playoff beard tradition was established by the 1980 New York Islanders. The players of this NHL team began to collectively shun razors as they entered the playoffs, and several weeks later they won the league’s national championship. Convinced that their beards had brought them luck, they carried on the practice during the next postseason period. By 1984, the Islanders had won four consecutive championships, and the playoff beard had been firmly established as a postseason NHL tradition. As of the early 21st century, players from almost every NHL team can be seen sprouting facial hair as they enter the playoffs, with the most outrageous results often becoming a subject of discussion for sports talk show banter.
Athletes in other sports, both professional and non-professional, have also periodically taken up the playoff beard tradition. In particular, it has been seen from time to time among players in the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Football League (NFL), as well as those on Major League Baseball (MLB) teams. Overall, however, the custom has never achieved the same level of popularity among athletes from these sports as it enjoys among hockey players.
Many NHL fans choose to show support for their favorite franchise by growing a beard along with that team’s players. Like the players, these fans shave their beards only after their team has either won the championship or been eliminated from the playoffs. Some fans grow playoff beards as part of a charity fundraising initiative. Generally, these initiatives involve agreeing to grow a beard in exchange for monetary pledges which may come from family members, friends, work colleagues, and so forth. These pledges are then donated to a charitable organization which may be selected by the fan himself or may be chosen by a philanthropic arm of his favored NHL organization.