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A playoff beard is the superstitious practice of a National Hockey League player not shaving his beard during the Stanley Cup playoffs. The player stops shaving when his team enters the playoffs and does not shave until his team is eliminated or wins the Stanley Cup. It is believed that the tradition was started in the 1980s by the New York Islanders. The tradition is also practiced by nearly all North American hockey leagues, to include high school leagues and the NCAA hockey teams, as well as minor league affiliates. The tradition has also spread to hockey leagues in Europe.

Some hockey programs, however, use other superstitions, often in conjunction with the playoff beard. For example, in the 2006-2007 post-season, the entire University of Minnesotamarker men's hockey team bleached their hair blonde. In accordance with the tradition, mascot Goldy Gopher and FSN anchor Doug Woog sported blonde wigs. Also, the SUNY Oswegomarker Lakers of Division III dyed their hair black that same season. They went on to win the national championship.

According to some observers, one may trim the beard after a loss in an effort to change the team's luck; Jim Dowd was one such practitioner.

Playoff beards have also become a trend for hockey fans once their team enters the playoffs. Notable examples of this are fans of the 2006-07 Buffalo Sabres whose loyal contingency display rules for grooming, dealing with skeptical supervisors and unappreciative significant others. During the 2003 Stanley Cup playoffs Mighty Ducks of Anaheim goalie Jean-Sébastien Giguère was noted for his thick beard; he commented that both he and his wife hated the beard, but that he did it for the team. Also, during the 2003 playoffs, Ken Daneyko of the New Jersey Devils grew a significantly large beard. They went on to win the Cup against the Mighty Ducks. The 2009 Red Wings used the slogan "The beard is back" for their '09 Stanley Cup run.

One team which notably did not follow the playoff beard tradition was the 1994 New York Rangers, as they did not want to follow the traditions of the rival Islanders.

Outside of hockey

The playoff beard has also expanded into the Canadian Football League, the National Football League and, to a lesser extent, the National Basketball Association. Two notable examples of the football playoff beard are Denver Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer and Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers. In fact, after Roethlisberger and his beard led the Steelers to their Super Bowl XL victory, he had his beard shaved by David Letterman on air during his appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman. The practice still remains the same, with the players not shaving until they either win the championship or are eliminated from the postseason. In the late 1990s, members of the New York Knicks, including Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley, and Allan Houston grew playoff beards during New York's playoff runs. Recently, LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers, as well as Pau Gasol of the Los Angeles Lakers have also sported playoff beards, thus bringing the tradition into a new age of basketball. Zydrunas Ilgauskas wore one in 2006, but did not bring the beard back for the 2007 playoffs, citing spousal disapproval.

At the end of the 2007 CFL regular season, the BC Lions grew playoff moustches, the idea came from Rob Murphy and was then used as a promotion for ticket and merchandise sales.

At the beginning of the 2007-2008 NFL season, wide receiver Matt Jones of the Jacksonville Jaguars grew a "touchdown beard" that he said he would not shave until he caught his first touchdown. In week 8, he caught his first touchdown of the season.

Male students at some universities in the United States, Canada and Sweden have also begun to sport an academic variation on the playoff beard - not shaving between the period when regular classes end and their last final exam.

Tennis superstar Björn Borg used to let his beard grow prior to the Wimbledonmarker tournament. One year, Sports Illustrated had a cover story previewing Wimbledon, and Borg's photo was captioned, "The beard has begun."

Top-Ten Tennis player James Blake now sports the beard during his runs at Grand-Slam events, not shaving until he has been eliminated. As well as Andy Roddick did in the 2006 US Open.

In NASCAR Nextel Cup driver Carl Edwards had last won a race at Texas Motor Speedwaymarkerin November 2005. Two years later in June 2007 he won at Michigan International Speedwaymarker. Motorhome driver Tom Giacchi hadn't shaven until Edwards' winin Michigan. Carl Edwards offered him a shave after the race.

In Major League Soccer, players on the Houston Dynamo roster kept a "lucky beard" for the duration of the 2006 and 2007 MLS Cup Playoffs.

Many players on the Houston Astros also grow playoff beards when they make it to the playoffs

During the Patriots 2007-2008 season, several offensive linemen including Pro Bowlers Matt Light and Logan Mankins grew beards which they claimed they would not shave until they lost. Both players showed up to the Pro Bowl much cleaner cut than in previous weeks.

During their playoff run in 2008, many players on the Philadelphia Eagles grew Playoff Beards. Head Coach Andy Reid and Owner Jeffrey Lurie also grew playoff beards.

In Gaelic football, the County Tyrone GAA team stopped shaving for the duration of their All-Ireland Senior Football Championship campaign. The team would go on to lift the Sam Maguire Cup.

In computer- and videogaming circles, there is also a similar phenomenon known as a release beard; when waiting male gamers stop shaving for an arbitrary amount of months prior to an anticipated title's retail date. The normal practice is then to go buy the game, return home, shave with a sense of great satisfaction, and get to playing. The release beard is obviously a predominantly male gamer phenomenon, but there have been cases of gamer girls growing release 'pits, abstaining from shaving their armpits.

Fan beards

Fans often grow beards as a sign of support while their favorite team is in the playoffs. In 2006, the NPR show Weekend America featured [98927] a segment about St. Louis Cardinals fans who grew beards during the playoffs. Several players for the underdog Cardinals grew beards too. The team would go on to win the World Series.

Fans of the Colorado Rockies have also carried on this tradition by growing beards for the Rockies 2007 playoff run.

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