by Jon Jordan on 04/06/11 at 01:57 PM ET
Usually, at this time of the season, I’m making off-season plans, soliciting reader responses for year-end fan polls and compiling the results, pondering summer changes for my primary team of focus, the Tampa Bay Lightning, and finalizing preparations to decrease the workload a bit or take some time away from writing altogether.
Can’t do any of that this year – not with the Bolts in the dance for the first time since 2007 – and the divisional focus is still alive as well, with the Washington Capitals not only Southeast champs for the fourth consecutive season but also in the driver’s seat for the Eastern Conference’s top seed, now leading Philadelphia by two points (and Pittsburgh three) after locking up the division with a shootout win in Toronto last night. Also, the Carolina Hurricanes are still clinging to life, though a home loss to Detroit tonight would kill their postseason dream outright.
So, with two Southeast clubs headed to the Stanley Cup playoffs (and maybe, maaaaayyyyybeeeeee three), I’m in business for a while longer than usual this year – at least in terms of sticking with my assigned beat and not having to look elsewhere for material, unless I so choose.
And along with remaining in work mode this year (hallelujah, by the way) comes the return of my very own playoff beard (and the tracking of progress with pictures, thereof).
If you want to play along, you have to abide by my simple rules:
For starters, as a guy who normally rocks some sort of facial hair configuration or another anyway, I’m a prime example for starting fresh, which is a must. After all, we’re looking to see who ends up with the burliest of beards, in direct correlation with their team going further than others (or, in my case, a team they’re covering. If I’m being honest, my real team rarely affords any sort of postseason opportunity.) Basically, everyone has to start at the same time. Come Sunday evening, then, clean-shaven it is, at least for a day.
Next, the question is, “When do you stop?” From a fan’s perspective, much like a player’s on any given team, you stop (and shave) when your team is either eliminated or wins the Stanley Cup. For many of you folks, this will mean an early exit from the party (sorry, just playing the numbers there). But I’m not allowing myself to get off that easy – not this year – as I’ll keep the lumberjack fun going as long as one of Tampa Bay or Washington (or Carolina?) is still alive and well. Once the Southeast is no longer represented in the chase for the Cup, I’ll go all Jonny Teenager again (for a couple of days anyway… 31 years old becomes 13 real quick with this mug.)
Now then, there are some out there who may propose a playoff beard for the sake of playoff beards, as in the guy (or girl?) who just wants to celebrate the game of hockey at its greatest stage, fighting the good fight all the way to the end, regardless of who hoists Lord Stanley’s precious hardware in early June. To them, I raise a glass. Have at it, manliest of manly men. No one’s going to stop you in your quest to join ZZ Top. (Side note: Did you know that the only member of ol’ Zed Zed without a beard is a guy by the name of Frank Beard? Isn’t that just divine?)
And finally, very minor alterations, if you ask me (and you are, by way of reading this far), are indeed allowed, though they must be defined. Acceptable grooming, by my standards, includes landscaping the upper cheekbone area and below the Adam’s apple. (If you’re like me, ladies [again - ???] and gentlemen, you’ll have some rogue hairs that must be dealt with. This will keep the significant others relatively at bay during your ascension to scruffdom.) Also, keeping the lip and tooth area free from stragglers may prove important to eating, brushing teeth and so on and so forth. Maintenance in this department will also be helpful in preventing falling victim to the allure of being able to chew on one’s own lip hair. It doesn’t sound like fun until it’s possible – and, if you have any bearderiffic fortitude (and your team makes it out of the first round), it will become a very real possibility. But (and this is important) no outright trimming! Your goal is to go burlier than you’ve ever gone before. Why self-sabotage?
So, there it is. I propose a challenge: Me versus the masses in a playoff beard-off. To join in on the fun, follow these three steps:
1) Make sure you’re following me on Twitter @JonJordan.
2) Snap a photo of your clean-shaven, fresh start self, after the regular season games have been completed this coming Sunday night (deadline, 11:59 PM, ET, Monday) and post it to Twitter (again, @JonJordan), along with the team to whom you’re dedicating your beard. (If you’re going playoff beard for the sake of playoff beard, that’s okay too. Just say so.)
3) Send an updated picture once a week, to be posted here, so we can all track everyone’s progress. If your team is eliminated, fire off a “sad face” shot, once you’ve killed your glorious beard. When all is said and done, I’ll have a special prize to send out to the King (or Queen) of all Beards, as selected by yours truly (and a panel of anonymous judges).
Remember: Your entry into the competition is only made official by submitting your unbearded photo via Twitter sometime between the completion of the final regular season game on Sunday night (Dallas/Minnesota at 6:00 ET, is the latest start) and just before midnight the following evening.
Congrats to not only the parent Lightning for returning to the postseason for the first time in four years but also to the AHL Norfolk Admirals, who secured their spot in the Calder Cup playoffs last night, by way of a Worcester loss.
I’ll be keeping tabs on the Admirals (and the other Southeast Division AHL affiliates involved) throughout the postseason as well.
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