- Jesse Rogers, Chicago Cubs beat reporter
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CHICAGO -- There are few traditions in sports more unique than hockey players growing playoff beards. It’s that time of year again, and with the Chicago Blackhawks sporting five rookies on their postseason roster, plus several other young second- or third-year players, they are ripe for some potentially bad playoff beards.
Youthful-looking forward Patrick Kane garnered national attention when he grew a playoff mullet two years ago as the Hawks went on to capture the Stanley Cup. He figured he couldn’t grow a beard very well so he opted for a mullet and tried it again last spring.
What about this postseason?
“I think I’m just going to try and grow the beard as well as I can,” Kane said Tuesday after practice. “I’m a little older now, and I can do a little bit better than a couple years ago. I’ll try to go with that. I don’t think I’m going to do the mullet. It didn’t really work last year, and the team has been playing well as of late so I didn’t want to change up too much.”
Superstition, more than anything, can dictate a player’s actions so with the Hawks falling in the first round last year, Kane is going in another direction. His playoff beard is bound to be scrutinized compared to his teammates. And with younger players on the Hawks roster, Kane is looking forward to having some fun at some other players’ expense for once, instead of his own.
“I know [Jimmy] Hayes can grow a terrible beard, but I think [Andrew] Shaw is going to be interesting to see what he can pull off. He’s kept it clean-shaven the whole time around here, it seems like he can’t grow it too much, and he’s the youngest guy on the team, so it’ll be fun to see what he has.”
Shaw’s name came up often as a guy to watch. Has he kept it clean-shaven to this point?
“He’s been growing one for two weeks, and I still don’t see anything,” Jamal Mayers joked.
The 20-year-old Shaw knows what he’s in for.
“It's embarrassing,” he said. “You're playing juniors – 19-20 years old --and 16-year-olds are growing bigger beards than you. I’ll see what I can get going … I don’t know what it is. My brothers have big beards, my younger brother has a bigger beard than me. It hasn’t hit me yet.”
On the other end of the spectrum is Brandon Bollig. He had the start of a playoff beard the moment he walked into the Hawks dressing room.
“A bunch of guys joke every time I come to the rink, they ask if I shaved this morning, and I already have a beard. It’s funny,” Bollig said. “I’m excited if we get going here for quite a while, to see where it goes.”
That’s another humorous benefit of a long playoff run. From nearly clean-shaven looking to grizzly. The Hawks are bound to have the full range of playoff beards.
“I think [Marcus] Kruger has a good lower-half beard,” Bryan Bickell said. “Shaw still has peach fuzz. I think he’ll be the hardest one to grow. Bollig is 23, so he’s got a good-looking one. He probably had one at 16, probably before that. [Nick] Leddy can grow some facial hair. I think Shaw is going to lose that race.”
Though the younger players will get the focus, they’re just as interested in seeing the veterans.
“I’m excited to see what some of them do with it,” Shaw said. “Like Duncan [Keith], his hair, already, it’s pretty hilarious.”
“I don’t think Shaw is going to look too good,” Bollig said. “I don’t know about Kaner either.”
After opting for a mullet in 2010, Patrick Kane will try a playoff beard.