Now that the greatest event in sports — the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs — is here, I thought I’d release my All-Playoff Beard team.
The beard is to the NHL postseason as a Packers Starter jacket is to a Wisconsin resident.
This isn’t the end-all of beard lists, but instead recognizes those who have consistently had beautiful facial hair come playoff time and seen success.
To fully appreciate the playoff beard, one must see what these guys look like outside of the playoffs. It’s quite a dramatic transformation.
In no particular order:
Erik Cole, Carolina Hurricanes
As a rookie in 2002, Cole led Carolina to the Stanley Cup finals — a five-game loss to Detroit — and dazzled fans with not only his play, but a beard worthy of former Florida Panther and Calgary Flame Dave Lowry (see below).
After breaking his neck during the 2005-06 season, Cole’s beard (right) nursed him back to health in time for an appearance in Game 7 of the 2006 finals against Edmonton.
That night, the Hurricanes won the Cup. Coincidence, or pure beard brutality? I’ll take the latter. Even ultimate bandwagoner Kid Rock was impressed. After celebrating his hometown Detroit Red Wings’ Stanley Cup victory over Carolina in 2002, somehow Mr. Rock found his way back onto the ice to celebrate with the Hurricanes. Huh? He was also waving a terrible towel when Pittsburgh won the Super Bowl in 2006. C’mon, Kid. Pick a city and stick with it.
Dave Lowry, Florida Panthers/Calgary Flames
Lowry’s beard is so elusive, I can’t even find a photo of it. So please accept my apology and settle for this artist’s renduring (Thanks, Cristof).
First appearing during the Florida Panthers’ surprising Cup finals run of 1996, Lowry’s beard was the definition of the 4-year-old Panthers: gritty.
Though Florida was swept by the Colorado Avalanche in four games, Lowry’s beard made its way back to the finals eight years later. But it wasn’t enough as Lowry’s Calgary Flames fell in seven games to the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004.
Crushed by another Stanley Cup finals defeat, Lowry and his beard called it a career.
Mike Commodore, Calgary Flames/Carolina Hurricanes/Ottawa Senators
As if the beard wasn’t enough, Commodore’s red afro does for his facial hair what the Detroit Tigers baseball cap did for Magnum P.I.’s mustache.
It seems like each time this guy gets into the postseason, his team gets to the finals. Commodore helped the Flames reach the 2004 finals. It’s hard to believe that they didn’t win with him and Dave Lowry on the same team.
After taking a full year off due to the NHL lockout of 2004-05, Commodore’s beard returned above a new sweater in 2005-06 with the Carolina Hurricanes. Commodore’s growth got the help it needed when Erik Cole’s beard made its Game 7 return.
Ottawa, Commodore’s current team, started the season hot but has since cooled down, sitting in the No. 6 seed. A Stanley Cup finalist a year ago, the Senators could get over the hump with the help of that red puff.
Todd Marchant, Anaheim Ducks
Marchant, a career third-liner, is propelled to first-line levels of play each postseason because of his beard’s power.
He helped lead the Ducks to the Stanley Cup championship last season after being a steady playoff performer for years as a member of the Edmonton Oilers.
I’m looking for big things from him during the playoffs this year.
Scott Niedermayer, Anaheim Ducks/New Jersey Devils
A four-time Stanley Cup winner, the seemingly ageless blue liner only shows his years during the playoffs, when the gray hair shows on his beard.
Great beard growth must be in the Niedermayer family’s genes. Brother Rob (44) also can grow an impressive one. He, too, was a member of the 1996 Panthers team with Lowry. Amazing how these beards come full circle.
The Niedermayers and Marchant aren’t the only Ducks with great growth:
Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Anaheim Ducks
I give credit to any goaltender who goes with the beard, especially if they don’t sport it regularly. It has to itch like crazy under those masks.
But J.S. Giguere had a crazy beard in 2003, when he won the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP in the then-Mighty Ducks’ seven-game Stanley Cup finals loss to Scott Niedermayer’s New Jersey Devils.
Giguere made it back to the finals last year and led the Ducks to a five-game victory over Ottawa.
The Ducks will be dangerous again this postseason after adding center Doug Weight earlier this season. He and his beard won a Cup title with Carolina in 2006. They also have Todd Bertuzzi who has been known to grow a nice beard.