Fact Checked

What Is a Playoff Beard?

M.C. Huguelet
M.C. Huguelet

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.

Playoff beards are common in the NHL.
Playoff beards are common in the NHL.

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.

A man growing a beard.
A man growing a beard.

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.

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Discussion Comments


I wish that there was an equivalent to the playoff beard for girls. What are we supposed to do, let our leg hair get really long?

I am just as rabid a fan as my boyfriend but I feel like I can't participate in all the playoff excitement. Most people wear their playoff beards with a lot of pride. The best playoff beards are proof of how much you love your team. How am I supposed to show my love?


A friend of mine has been growing a hockey playoff beard for this years NHL playoffs. He is a huge Rangers fan and I think around playoff time his blood turns Ranger's blue.

The funny thing is that he never normally has a beard but he is one of those guys that can grow a full beard in less than a week. The hair just pours out of his face. So he is normally pretty clean cut but for the few weeks of the playoffs he turns into a lumber jack.


I have grown a playoff beard every time the St Louis Cardinals make it into the playoffs. We went all the way last year, actually played the maximum amount of baseball games that it is possible to play over the course of the playoffs. I didn't shave for a few weeks and I was looking pretty scruffy by the end.

Luckily my boss is a huge Cardinals fan and I was not the only guy in the office that was growing a beard. It became something to talk about around the water cooler. And even if it is just silly superstition, I hope that I never have to shave prematurely.

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    • Playoff beards are common in the NHL.
      Playoff beards are common in the NHL.
    • A man growing a beard.
      By: dandesign86
      A man growing a beard.