Friday, May 18, 2012

The Life and Times of a Playoff Hockey Beard

It was a few weeks ago in the middle of my daily 11 a.m. meeting at work when I started to realize that things might be getting a little out of hand. I was told that while midnight apparently is the hour when everyone starts fighting in bars in Helsinki, I won't need to worry about it when I go there this summer because they won't fight a man with a beard. At that point the jokes started rolling in about my overgrown whiskers and whether or not they might actually be in violation of HR's guidelines for office presentation (I don't think it is), how I probably ought to shave the neckbeard and how my alter ego is Grizzly Adams.

This is a very mature office as you all can see, though I'm starting to realize that pretty much no office is mature, but the mockery has come fast and furious, and perhaps rightly so. In just over a month my face has gotten more and more scraggly and itchtastic. I have a positively enormous mop on my cheeks and chin that everyone seems stunned or shocked by as they pass by me for the first time in weeks. As you can see in the upper right-hand corner (I'm pretty sure my friend Elizabeth is going to crucify me for posting this shot in a public space again) my jaw line is nearly twice as voluminous and fluffy. It is a huge, red, overwhelmingly uncomfortable and easily mockable bit of decoration that will almost certainly continue to irritate me until the moment I finally get rid of it.

But the Devils are still playing. And, as I've said before, as long as they are, so is the beard.

Ah yes, the playoff beard is a tried and true method of hockey dedication as tradition dictates that players vying for the Stanley Cup don't trim their whiskers until they've been eliminated from the tournament or won it all -- a sort of protest against anything but single-minded pursuit of the game's ultimate prize. Superstition is dumb and participating it in it is even more irrational if you're just a fan and not a player, but the tradition has begun to spread to the stands over the last few seasons nonetheless, and most crowds at games in the postseason will feature at least a handful of people that could clean off frying pans with their faces if they happen to have run out of brillo pads.

I am now one of those unfortunate souls and that is, for several reasons, rather surprising for me . For one, I hate having a beard. I know, it doesn't look all that awful, but damnit all is this thing itchy. Like seriously, it's really really itchy, and it just doesn't stop itching the whole time you have it. Grown men who have beards or mustaches for spans of four decades or more, like my father, boggle my mind as they must have the highest threshold for epidermal irritation humanly possible. For another reason, this is not the first time I've tried growing a sports-related beard and the previous results have been, shall I say, not so positive. Two previous attempts at sports beardiness that come to mind are when I grew a protest beard in 2009 until the Mets got back to .500 (it did not achieve its aim), and when I decided to try out my first playoff beard for the New Jersey Devils in 2010 only to see them lose to Philadelphia in the first round in a whopping five games.

So given all that, I began growing a beard for my sixth-seeded Devils this year under the assumption that it wouldn't be sticking around for too long. Suddenly, however, the Devils are in the Eastern Conference Finals and my beard is into its fifth week. Far be it from me to mess with success on this route. I'm not a particularly superstitious man, but if it wins New Jersey a fourth Stanley Cup I won't argue, and that means this face is getting shaggier and shaggier.

I was in the stands at Madison Square Garden Wednesday night for Game 2 between the Devils and Rangers courtesy of someone accidentally posting tickets in sec. 338 on Stubhub for a whopping $29, and while the Devils did lose the first playoff game I attended this year, an embarrassing Game 3 blowup against Florida in the first round, they've won each of the two I attended since, which has me thinking the beard must be having some sort of impact, because it certainly isn't the fact that Mark Fayne is getting quality minutes on defense. That means the power of the beard must be unstoppable once it's reached a notable level of fluff. I'm pretty sure it also had something to do with the Mets getting into the hockey mood this week, in particular Paterson, New Jersey native Andres Torres.

That means it stays.

It will stay as long as it needs to whether or not it prevents me from sleeping comfortable, taking decent pictures or convincing women to go on dates with me. That last one seems the most likely casualty. Still if that's what it takes for the Devils to steal a game in MSG and take home ice advantage away from New York with a chance to go to the Stanley Cup Final so be it. I will leave the hair alone and deal with the constant scratching. So far I've been loathe even to trim it or maintain it for fear of throwing off the fung shwei. In truth I've only dabbled in that once since I began growing it and that waited until New Jersey had a seemingly safe 3-1 lead in the second round.

At this point, I'm comfortable admitting that I no long make the decisions. The Beard does. The Beard rules and chooses all actions from this point on because if the beard can make David Clarkson deflect a shot from the point past Henrik Lundqvist for a game-winner -- I can't imagine what hockey genius would have seen that coming -- it can do anything.

I'm just going to sit back and let the beard make those decisions. I just hope it keeps calling the shots through mid-June.

1 comment:

  1. Devils suck man cut the beard you look worse than kovy. Brodeur is the only one keeping you in the game. And when the rangers get parise you'll be relegated to cellar dwellers for years to come.