Across the SB Nation NHL network this week, NBC Sports is sponsoring a series about playoff hockey and superstitions. Here's our contribution...
As absurd and preposterous as they may be, superstitions abound in the world of sports, like weeds in a garden. Unlike weeds, however, superstitions mustn't be pulled (though the act of pulling may be involved in them...but more on that later). Quite the opposite. Superstitions must be maintained and nurtured until they bear their oh-so-rewarding fruit.
Assuming you've got one that works, that is.
Fans of the Stanley Cup Playoffs have a built-in superstition: the playoff beard. Indeed, every millimeter of whisker growth, every finger-comb through a budding mustache, is a flagstone in the cobbled road to glory. Never mind that we must bend the teeth on our electric buzzers to dilute our significant others' temptations to de-beard us in the dead of night. Never mind that our mothers and fathers frown disapprovingly at our follicle forests, embarrassed that their esteemed dinner guests must be subjected to such an unruly visage.
We know our face lawns must go unmowed if our team is to achieve the elusive majesty that is Lord Stanley's Cup. We will hold fast against the scrutiny from our loved ones. We will squelch the temptation to reach for the razor when we accidentally taste our mouth brow for the fifth time that day. As fans, these are our versions of blocked shots or stick checks, defensive zone clears or avoiding taking a stupid penalty. To sit idly by, not contributing at all? What kind of fans would we be?
Perhaps the beard thing - which has probably transcended superstition and now resides in the realm of tradition - could be overlooked if not for the other ingredients in the ridiculous playoff behavior burrito.
Thankfully, I've got a few buddies I can hunker down and share this burrito with. One buddy in particular has a beautiful mane of shiny, wavy, exquisitely pull-able hair. That's right, pull-able.
Entrenched in the nerve-gripping throes of Washington Capitals playoff hockey, when the team needs a goal, a power play, a good penalty kill, anything, we resort to yanking upon each other's locks like a pair of beet farmers. I don't remember how it started, nor do I care. I know that with every tug I bestow upon my friend's bouffant, I send to the Capitals a jolt of positive energy.
Our mutual lock-tugging may or may not have been responsible for the puck thrown over the glass by Ryan McDonagh in game 2.
Indeed, we hope to one day marry these two practices into a single act, into a veritable positive-energy celestial beam aimed at our Capitals: the tugging of a playoff beard. Alas, in recent years the postseason struggles of our beloved Caps have not allowed the appropriate window needed to accomplish such prodigious facial prosperity, and our dream of the beard-tug remains unrealized, a Sleeping Beauty whose prince got lost in the woods. I hope my Caps brethren of greater follicle fortitude than I embrace this idea. I hope they reach up and pluck this pie from the sky, and take from it the bite that I never could (1998 would have been a prime year for the beard-tug, but alas, our 11 year old cheeks were still rosy and smooth).
And to the tremendous Capitals fans of the fairer sex, though you are biologically less inclined to boast a whisker-tassel of your own, this stops you not from cradling a chin in the palm of your delicate hand, and pulling like a church-bell-ringer.
I'm asking you, my carpet-cheeked fellows, to allow your friends to tug on your beards. Allow them to twist the wires of your chin muffler round their greasy fingers and yank! It is but a momentary flash of pain. A small sacrifice in the name of a greater magnificence. Have you a veritable woodland sprouted from the rich soil of your face? You, sir, hold the key to playoff success. Turn it. NAY. Tug it.
So in summary: no mom, I can't come over for dinner tonight because your living room couch doesn't house the playoff butt-print I've been working on for a week; and sorry, friend, I can't hang out with you tonight because the last time we had beers together the Caps lost four straight; and baby, I think we should sleep at my house tonight because you don't have that beard shampoo that I like.
If you guys could go ahead and leave a comment below for my parents and girlfriend, letting them know that (relative to fans of NHL playoff teams) I am in perfectly fine mental health, yeah, that would be great.
[Ed. Note: If you're inspired by this tale of hirsute goodness, please consider donating some money to something that involves growing beards and doing good - JP's Beard-A-Thon drive.]