The Stanley Cup playoff beard has been an NHL tradition since the early 1980s, when the shaggy New York Islanders won four straight championships. It represents the players' singular focus, as if even personal hygiene is sacrificed in pursuit of hockey's holy grail. It suggests the rugged doggedness that's synonymous with the NHL's postseason tournament, with its grueling series and marathon overtimes.
Here's a look at the best beards to watch for in the 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs.
In the NHL, captains set the tone for their teammates. They lead by example on the ice with an aggressive play or a thunderous bodycheck. They lead off the ice by growing a gnarly facial thicket that says, "Put the razors away, boys, we've got a long journey ahead of us." Here are some of the captains who lead with their whiskered chins.
Ryan O'Reilly's chin bib reached legendary status when it froze solid at the 2022 Winter Classic in Minneapolis, as O'Reilly played in minus-6 degree conditions.
The 31-year-old St. Louis Blues center first started sporting a beard after being traded to the Buffalo Sabres in 2015. It reached peak bushiness in his first season with the Blues, when he led them to their first Stanley Cup and won playoff MVP. This is not a coincidence.
Every Stanley Cup playoff team needs a few players that can pancake an opponent with a big hit, or send a painful reminder to a foe that it's best not to mess with their teammates. These blue-collar heroes have to look the part, which usually manifests as a group of burly men sporting even burlier beards during the postseason.
Radko Gudas entered the NHL with a beard 10 seasons ago. It has grown alongside his reputation for being one of the league's most devastating checkers, to the point that they're both quite intimidating.
In the AHL in 2012, Gudas and two Norfolk Admirals teammates vowed to not shave during a six-game winning streak in fear of jinxing it. The Admirals won 28 straight games to close out the regular season, eventually capturing the Calder Cup as well. That, friends, is the power of Radko Gudas' beard.
NHL players are notoriously superstitious. It's in the way they tape their sticks, sequentially put on their gear or warm up before games with the same routine. Those quirks intensify when a player gets on a goal-scoring roll. Hence, offensive stars are natural candidates for the playoff beard and its mythic properties.
Star Tampa Bay Lightning winger Nikita Kucherov slowly transformed into a Russian bear during their lengthy playoff runs to consecutive Stanley Cup championships, before his beard was soaked in celebration in their boat parades.
Kucherov's playoff beard was immortalized during a raucous, shirtless news conference that the Lightning star hosted after his team won the Stanley Cup in 2021, as it engulfed cans of light beer that he chugged between reporters' questions. Between face and chest, it may have been the most hirsute postgame interview in playoff history.
Hockey players don't just become veterans. They become "grizzled" veterans. The term "graybeard" is more than applicable to NHL players who still roll with the tradition after they've gone over the hill. This is essential for the postseason. How else are we supposed to identify "the old guy we're hoping to see finally win the Stanley Cup" if he doesn't look the part?
Drew Doughty personified the Los Angeles Kings' Stanley Cup journeys with his gap-toothed maw surrounded by four rounds of playoff foliage. The injured defenseman will still conjure that follicle spirit while watching his teammates this postseason.
Doughty once joked that his video game beard was more generous than his actual scruff. What it lacks in depth it make up for in chaos, especially when combined with the gap in his teeth.
"The deeper Drew gets into the playoffs, the better he gets. Same with his beard." -- Jim Fox, L.A. Kings broadcaster