On the first day of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, I sat down with my Playoff Beard for an interview. Having recently shaved, the Beard was barely more than a bit of scruff. Not much of a beard, really. But as time progressed and the Washington Capitals made it further into the playoffs, the beard would go further this year than in previous years, becoming quite lush and full.
Ed Lynn: So. Playoff Beard. How would you prefer I address you? “Beard”? “Playoff”?
Playoff Beard: “Play” is fine. It’s what my friends call me. Like the ‘80s hip hop star.
EL: For the uninitiated, you show up on my face every year at the beginning of the NHL’s Stanley Cup Playoffs—is that correct?
PB: Yes. But only when your team makes the cut. Only the 16 best make it in each year. And once your team is eliminated, so am I.
EL: When did this ritual begin?
PB: I’m actually a pretty recent concept. I started becoming a thing back in the early ‘80s when some of the New York Islanders stopped shaving during the playoffs. They went on to win four Stanley Cups in a row.
EL: They believed the beards brought them a great deal of luck. With hockey players being a superstitious bunch, it became commonplace in the League to intentionally lose your razor if your were still playing during the postseason.
PB: Sometimes luck is all you’ve got. The Islanders are a good example.
EL: Are you superstitious?
PB: I think you mean are you superstitious? I am your playoff beard.
EL: I’m not. If I was, my superstitious co-worker would tease me endlessly. “Who’s superstitious now, Mister Science Atheist Guy?!”
PB: So why grow me?
EL: It’s just another way I support my team. Lots of fans grow their beards along with the players during the postseason. It makes me feel like I’m part of something bigger.
PB: It’s a shame I won’t get very lush and full.
EL: What are you saying?
PB: You really think they’re making it past the second round? They’ll be lucky to make it past Columbus, but if they do, they’ likely face Pittsburgh. And the Pens won the last two Cups.
EL: That’s a pretty defeatist thing for a playoff beard to say.
PB: Pittsburgh can grow some epic beards. Their fans are steelworkers!
EL: Point taken. There’s hope, though. Right?
EL: Good luck, Play.
PB: You too, “Babyface.”
After the Capitals lasted through the first three rounds, securing a spot in the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in 20 years (and the second time ever), I sat down with Playoff Beard for a follow up.
EL: So. You’re looking well. Very fluffy and full.
PB: Luck is a funny thing.
EL: I think you’ve got a little food right there… is that “crow”?
PB: Yeah, fine. You know they’ve still got to win four more games against these misfits from Vegas, right? You’ve never beaten them.
EL: The Caps only ever played Vegas twice. And that was during the regular season.
PB: Last time they went to the Finals, they got swept. If I were you, I’d keep that razor sharpened.
EL: Sounds like you have some kind of death wish. Where’s the hope?
PB: This is D.C., man. Hope stays outside the Beltway and only comes back in to die in committee.
EL: Geez, if the Caps make it into the playoffs next year, I’m going to confine you to my upper lip.
PB: Four games, man.
After the Washington Capitals won their first game in a Stanley Cup Final Round, then their first home game in a Stanley Cup Final Round, and ultimately brought home their first Stanley Cup, I had a final conversation with the Playoff Beard.
EL: Is there anything left to say?
PB: (singing) We are the champions, my friend…
PB: Hey, man, I called it! Caps in five! Check the tape!
EL: There’s no tape and you never said “Caps in five.” In fact, most of the time you were predicting they’d lose.
PB: Alternative facts!
EL: I’ve had just about enough of you!
PB: No! Not the clippers! I’ll behave!
EL: Sorry, PB, but you’ve worn out your welcome. Time to go.
And, with that, Playoff Beard, which started in early April and—for the first time ever—lasted through early June, was no more. But I’ll always carry those memories of insane itchiness, an incessantly wet upper lip, and reconnecting with the previous night’s dinner. I look forward the inevitability of its return in 2019.