Category Archives: NHL

The Power of Facial Hair

A good beard can get you a long way in life. Just ask James Harden. Harden’s play this season (and his beard of course) have propelled the Thunder all the way to the NBA Finals.

If you look closely, you can see a small bird living inside Harden’s beard.

While Harden has had his beard for several years now, many others grow theirs specifically for the playoffs, most famously in the NHL. That tradition dates back to the 1980’s when the New York Islanders had four games in five nights and didn’t have time to shave. Since then, come playoff time, players in nearly every sport will follow the tradition and hope the superstition proves useful.

But the effects of impressive facial hair have been well documented throughout sports history. Let’s take a look.

Even Davis can’t believe how nice his beard was.

Baron Davis: Just as Baron’s beard reached its maximum volume, miracles began happening for the 2007 Golden State Warriors. Finishing the season 16-5 to earn the 8th seed with a 42-40 record, the Warriors faced the NBA’s best team in the Dallas Mavericks and Dirk Nowitzki coming off of an MVP season. The rest, obviously, is history.

Davis and the Warriors dismantled Dallas  and nearly snuck by the Utah Jazz in round 2 in a series that featured arguably the best play of Davis’ career. Davis and his beard gained notoriety after that season, as Boom Dizzle himself details in this video.

Brian Wilson: Moving across the Bay, Wilson followed in the path of his fellow Giant Barry Bonds in achieving greatness through frowned upon measures. Pledging at the beginning of the season to not shave until his team won a World Series, the eccentric Wilson took that a step further by dying his beard black. He pushed aside the accusations by claiming the beard was “just really tan.”

Just slap some mascara on Wilson and Captain Jack Sparrow would have some competition.

Despite the tainted beard, the Giants also had some playoff miracles, particularly in their NLCS matchup against the Phillies. In Game 1, Cody Ross hit two home runs off Roy Halladay, who had yet to give up a hit in the playoffs, and the Giants went on to win the series 4-2 behind Wilson’s 3 saves and 1 win.

San Francisco moved on to face the Texas Rangers in the World Series and won the title with relative ease in 5 games. After that, Wilson’s beard became a legend, prompting obligatory “fear the beard” chants every ninth inning and his own t-shirt.

Johnny Damon:The 2004 playoffs was another big win for beards. Damon, sporting a massive beard rivaling many a vagrant, helped propel the Boston Red Sox to their first World Series title since 1918.

Damon added the long hair to his beard to go for the cave man effect.

After falling behind 3 games to none in the ALCS matchups versus the Yankees, Boston rallied back to win the series, bolstered by Damon’s game-winning run in the 14th inning of Game 5 and his 2 home run, 6 RBI game 7. Having reached the World Series, Damon’s home run to lead of Game 4 propelled the Red Sox to victory, sweeping the Cardinals and winning its first title in 86 years.

Brett Keisel: With a beard that could earn him a role in The Hangover 3, Keisel may have the most profound facial hair on this list.

Keisel must have a very warm face.

Following the Pittsburgh Steelers’ failure to make the playoffs in 2009, Keisel began growing what he dubbed “Da Beard,” hoping to improve his team’s fortunes. It clearly worked, as the Steelers made it all the way to the Super Bowl the next season, eventually losing to the Packers.

Keisel’s beard has its own website and raised over $40,000 for the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC when it was cut off at the “Shear The Beard” ceremony, making it the most philanthropic sporting beard of all time.

Rollie Fingers: The most famous moustache in sporting history has proved itself as lucky as its lower lip counterparts on this list. Fingers is a 7-time All-Star, 3-time World Series Champion, winner of the 1981 AL MVP and AL Cy Young Award, the 1974 World Series MVP, and only the second relief pitcher to make the Hall of Fame.

Just look at the curl on that thing!

The other end of the spectrum holds true as well. Players with pathetic fuzz have received some poor luck in the playoffs.

Adam Morrison: Sporting perhaps the worst moustache in the history of mankind, Morrison has felt the consequences of his poor life decision to grow it.

Cute

Gonzaga’s memorable late game collapse at the end of the 2006 Sweet Sixteen led to Morrison crying on national television and a virtually nonexistent NBA career for the NCAA’s leading scorer.

Joe Flacco: I have no idea how Flacco decided a handlebar moustache would be a good choice, but the experiment did not end well for the Ravens’ quarterback.

Flacco realized the error in his ways after his loss to the Patriots.

Thought by many to be frontrunners for the Superbowl, Baltimore missed a field goal at the end of their AFC Championship Game against the Patriots that would have sent the game to overtime. Flacco quickly shaved the stache off after the game, but its damage was done. After the season, Flacco further hurt his karma by calling himself the NFL’s best quarterback. “I think I’m the best. I don’t think I’m top-five, I think I’m the best,” Flacco said. Clearly he hasn’t learned his lesson.

With the long history of outstanding facial hair being accompanied by outstanding success, it will be interesting to see if James Harden and the Thunder can continue the trend.

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Los Angeles Kings Win First Stanley Cup in Franchise History

If you thought the Kings were going to blow a 3-0 lead in the Stanley Cup Finals and put a damper on what has been an improbable run, you found out this evening that they had more integrity than that.

In the first three games of the finals, Los Angeles made quick work of the New Jersey Devils, outscoring them 8-2 only to falter with the champagne on ice twice in a row in Games 4 and 5.

But every closer needs to walk the bases loaded every once in a while, right?

For nearly a week now, we’ve heard speculation that the Kings are incapable of “getting it done,” that their luck may have run out.

We’ve also heard the reminders of the meltdown experienced by the 1942 Detroit Red Wings, the last team to lose four straight games in the Stanley Cup Finals after winning the first three.

But when the pressure was on for the Kings, they closed.  When the pundits started to question their ability to play in a tight series after dominating the playoffs, they answered.

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Before tonight, a Kings Stanley Cup was the kind of thing that only happened in video games.

And when they first skated onto the ice in front of a sold-out, raucous Staples Center crowd, they did not disappoint.

In the first period, the Kings showed why they belonged atop the hockey throne, taking advantage of three early power play opportunities and propelling themselves to a 3-0 lead.

Jumping to an early lead made an excited Staples Center crowd that much harder to deal with for the Devils.  It also built confidence for the Kings, who knew that the first team to score in each previous game had gone on to win.

Kings center Jeff Carter traded goals with Devils center Adam Henrique in the second period to make the score 4-1, and the Kings all but hoisted the cup during the middle of the third, scoring back-to-back goals in the last five minutes of what was ultimately a 6-1 victory.

What’s so amazing about the first-time NHL champions is that their season began with very few title hopes.  On December 12th, the Kings were limping along with a 13-13-4 record and fired then-coach Terry Murray.

Still, the team thrived in the underdog role, earning the No. 8 seed then obliterating the competition in the Western Conference Playoffs.

Led by players like center Anze Kopitar and playoff MVP goalie Jonathan Quick, this group of scrappy players did what “The Great One” could not in Los Angeles in 1991-1992 and defied the odds for a title.

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Jonathan Quick went 16-4 between the pipes for the Kings this postseason

In all likelihood, a win of this magnitude will turn more Los Angelinos into hockey fans, something that has needed to happen for a while, as hockey fans tend to be some of the most die-hard individuals in American professional sports.

Even more than Barry Melrose needs his hair gel, the Los Angeles Kings needed this Stanley Cup.

And they got it.

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