Playoff beards growing superstition

By Kevin Wilson: Freedom Newspapers

I may never be on “Meet the Press,” but that’s OK. I already have the most important thing in common with host Tim Russert.

We’re Buffalo Sabres fans.

Some years, that doesn’t mean a lot, and during the National Hockey League’s lost 2004-05 season, it meant even less. But it’s 2007 now, and the hockey club I’ve called my favorite since 1993 has its best chance in team history to pick up its first Stanley Cup title.

As I’m more than halfway across the country, I’m probably not getting to HSBC Arena, or anywhere else the NHL’s top-seeded Sabres will go this playoff season.

Alas, “Seinfeld” shows us the way. Character David Puddy said he was just “supporting the team” when he painted his face for a New Jersey Devils game.

“Hey, you’ve got to let them know you’re out there,” Puddy said. “This is the playoffs.”

Indeed it is, and that’s how we’ll be describing my hair — out there — until the last puck is dropped on this season. I’m growing my first playoff beard.

The tradition of a playoff beard is nothing new. Broncos fans might remember seeing Jake Plummer growing a beard for Denver playoff runs then shrinking in big games. It’s more meaningful for hockey because the hockey helmet doesn’t conceal faces.

Some fans feel a playoff beard is a players-only thing. One of my fellow Sabre fan friends in Florida feels that way, but said I should at least do it right:

Rule 1: Your face is not the only hair you don’t cut. No haircuts, nothing. If you get a haircut, you must shave the playoff beard.

Rule 2: The playoff beard is above all. If a girlfriend/wife or job is telling you to shave, you must be willing to sacrifice either or both.

Rule 3: There is no trimming of the playoff beard. The superstition is about shaving and cutting hair, not growing a beard. If the playoff beard is trimmed, the whole face must be shaved.

Rule 4: If for whatever reason, one cannot maintain the playoff beard and has to shave, he cannot start a new one.

Rule 5: The start of the playoff beard must occur after the last game of the season.

Rule 6: If for whatever reason your team is eliminated, you must shave the playoff beard immediately. No waiting for the morning. This helps you to get over the grieving stage and show you are ready to deal with the pain.

Since I’ve got no significant other to worry about and I don’t leave the office too much, I’m confident I won’t have to worry about Rule 2. Mr. Russert, on the other hand, would have a hard time explaining the beard to his television guests. (“I’m sorry you’re offended, Mr. Prime Minister, but the Sabres come first.”)

I last shaved Sunday, after Buffalo lost a meaningless game to Philadelphia. So far, I just look lazy. Assuming the Sabres get past the New York Islanders in the first round — odds are pretty good — you’ll start to notice the beard.

You’ll see the beard, and I’ll try to wear one of my many Sabre jerseys to tip you off. You might be tempted to call me pathetic. You might be tempted to think I’m homeless.

Hopefully, you’ll just know I’m supporting the team. I gotta let them know I’m out there.