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The Perfect 10: NHL playoff beards

Monday, April 28, 2003

Compiled by Seth Rorabaugh

A good playoff beard is the sign of a few things. First, your face is not follically challenged. Second, you're not a New York Rangers player (or a Penguins player as of late.) Third, you're engaged in the Stanley Cup playoffs. And finally, you're doing well in those playoffs.

Carolina Hurricanes' Erik Cole was the epitome of the lumberjack look as he scored 15 points in the playoffs last season. (Paul Chiasson, Canadian Press/AP)

Many a men who have boycotted the razor for nearly two months have hoisted the Stanley Cup and kissed it with varying amounts of facial hair. Many names on the trophy have had from nothing but peach fuzz to outright face forests.

No other postseason of any other sport has such a superstition that so many players abide by with such obedience. This ritual is one of the big reasons the Stanley Cup playoffs are perhaps the finest of the four major professional sports.

So throw away the Norelco and the Barbasol and remember some of the finest beards every grown in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

(Note: Any playoff beards currently being grown are ruled ineligible because they are unfinished pieces of art. Sorry Donald Brashear and Mike Modano fans.)

10. Jock Callander, forward, Penguins, 1992. Callander didn't have much of an NHL career. But he did have perhaps the finest minor-league career in history. In fact, Callander is the all-time leading scorer in minor-league history.

Callander did have a cup of coffee with the NHL when he was called up in the playoffs by the Penguins in 1992, when Joey Mullen and Mario Lemieux were injured and got his name on the Stanley Cup.

Being that he was named Jock and had a similar appearance your average 80's Ratt fan is more than good enough for this list.

9. Todd Bertuzzi, Forward, Vancouver Canucks, 2002. Bertuzzi is one of countless Islanders prospects to not accomplish anything for New York. All of his accomplishments were done with another team.

Once discarded as an underachiever, Bertuzzi is now one of the top scorers and the top power forward in the game.

While his Canucks didn't get by the eventual champion Red Wings in the first round last year, losing in six games, they did provide a scare to Detroit and showed they will be a force in the Western Conference, and he will displaying many five o'clock shadows for many years to come.

8. Jeff O'Neill, forward, Carolina Hurricanes, 2002. Remember that episode of Beavis and Butthead when they went to the mall looking for girls after they glued hair to their faces to look like beards? Well, this is what O'Neill looked like last year in the playoffs, times 10. And his looked like the hair of about four dead animals combined.

O'Neill and the Hurricanes lost in five games to the Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup final last season.

7. Bendan Shanahan, forward, Detroit Red Wings, 2002. How committed was Shanahan to keeping with tradition? The sharp-shooting forward was so sick of his goatee in in the final, he shaved it. But not until after he had skated with the Stanley Cup.

6. Ray Bourque, defenseman, Colorado Avalanche, 2001. Sure he was brought in as a "ringer" to bring the Avalanche another championship. And it didn't even win one until the next season when they brought in Rob Blake. But watching Colorado captain Joe Sakic ignore tradition and allow Bourque, with his salt-and-pepper goatee, hold up the Stanley Cup first was one of the most heart-warming images in hockey.

5. Saku Koivu, center, Montreal Canadiens, 2002. Even if his team was swept in the first round and he didn't score a single point, there was no way he wasn't getting on this list.

The simple fact that Koivu had missed most of the regular season recovering from chemotherapy for cancer and was rendered totally hairless due to the treatment, but was able to play the stretch run for the Canadiens and help secure the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference is amazing.

But also considering he and Jose Theodore led the Canadiens past the top-seeded Bruins, and Koivu was able to grow any facial hair at all in their upset, is astounding.

4. Dave Lowry, forward, Florida Panthers, 1996. Throughout his career Lowry was never much more than a role player, mucking and grinding himself to paychecks. Not a great way to get much notice, but it paid the bills.

Lowry's style fit perfectly for the upstart Florida Panthers, when they trapped their way to the Stanley Cup final with lots of players like Lowry.

Lowry stood out because of a thick, red beard that would've been ranked higher if it weren't for Florida's fans who celebrated goals by throwing plastic rats on the ice, which is probably better than the octopi Detroit's faithful throw, but not nearly as annoying.

Lowry scored 17 points that postseason but was swept along with the Panthers in four games by the Colorado Avalanche.

3. Peter Forsberg, center, Colorado Avalanche, 1996-2001. This Swede is perhaps the toughest, nastiest European player in the league, and perhaps the league's best overall. And he looks the part, too.

During the regular season this possible Hart Trophy winner usually sports just a goatee. But once the postseason starts, he throws away the razor. Add that in with his ragged hair and a constant look of determination on his face, Forsberg looks more like a psychotic lumberjack who would puree his own mother than one of the most established playoff performers in the NHL in the past 10 years.

2. Phil Bourque, forward, Penguins, 1991-92. If Bourque had never scored a goal in the NHL he might have remained one of the most beloved Penguins just for the simple fact that he proudly wore a mullet. And once the playoffs got started up, Bourque looked like someone who had never met a barber.

But Bourque did score a few goals and was a key contributor to the Penguins' success in the early 1990's. He is 12th all time in postseason points for the Penguins with 25. Bourque's name appears on the Stanley Cup for each of the Penguins championships in '91 and '92.

1. Erik Cole, forward, Carolina Hurricanes, 2002. Before the playoffs last season, not many people outside of the hockey hotbed of Raleigh-Durham, N.C., had heard of this baby-faced Hurricanes rookie. He quietly had helped the Southeast Division champs claim their division by scoring only 27 points.

Once the playoffs started, his Mach 3 saw about as much action during the postseason as the Rangers or Penguins did. Cole's lumberjack look coincided with his surge in the playoffs as he pumped in 15 points leading all rookies and teamed with Rod Brind'Amour and Bates Battaglia to form the effective "BBC" line. Cole and the Hurricanes eventually lost in five games in the Stanley Cup Final to the Detroit Red Wings.

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