Originally Published: April 30, 2008 9:31 p.m.
The playoff beards are in full bloom ... at least for those who can grow them.
Explanations vary when it comes to the origins of this time-honored hockey tradition. Some believe it can be traced back to the olden days of hockey when ex-lumberjacks grew beards to insulate their chins. Others believe it got its start in the NHL when players refused to shave on game day because the cold air irritated their clean-shaven faces.
No matter how it started, Sundogs teammates have fun poking at one another as the beards grow in. When asked who on the team should not be growing a beard, Dusty Collins caught the most flak.
"I think that's the worst one I've seen," goalie Rob McVicar said of Collins, an opinion shared by others like defenseman Jon Landry. "His sideburns come down to his cheeks but everything else is kind of spotty. That's probably the most embarrassing beard on the team."
"I don't think Vic has any room to talk because he looks like he's a European because he has no hair on his face," Collins said. "Landry looks like he just came out of a lumber yard. I think once they take a look in the mirror, they'll realize I have something going for me in the playoff beard department."
Forward Tyler Liebel describes Collins as sporting "his little blond beard."
"Dusty still has his baby face," Liebel said. "He has better sideburns than he does facial hair."
Not all players are growing beards. Cory Urquhart, Alex Leavitt and Marco Emond are still breaking out razors.
Leavitt has a reason.
"The year we won the ECHL title in Alaska, I didn't do it," Leavitt said. "I was 21 at the time, or 20, so I couldn't grow much at the time. I still can't grow much but I decided it worked once for me so I'm not going to grow one again."
Of course, Leavitt couldn't help but get in one jab.
"Then you've got a guy like Adam Wood, who is a Chia pet and can grow a beard overnight," he added.
Urquhart grew a beard last year while playing with the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL. But this year, he's shaving.
"I don't think there's really much of a point to it," he said. "Some guys are more superstitious than others."
Urquhart believes Mark Kolanos as well as Wood should think about shaving.
"Kolanos, you've got to look at that thing," he said. "Wood, he looks like a caveman. He looks like the Geico guy."
Team captain Chris Bartolone is getting a rough time from his family.
"The kids hate it. I want my hugs and kisses and I'm not getting them right now. 'Daddy, the pickies, it hurts, it itches.' That's not going over too well right now," said Bartolone, who also has a tradition of not cutting his hair after December.
Coaches usually don't go with the flow on the beard growing but it can represent a sign of team unity. Arizona's Marco Pietroniro, who shaves the rest of the year, said it's a fun thing to do.
When asked about who needs to shave, the coach wasn't talking.
"There's a few guys that aren't old enough and don't have enough hair," he said. "I'm going to stay away from that one."
Tyler Redenbach, who doubts Leavitt can grow facial hair, thinks the honor of most outrageous beard goes to Landry.
"It's pretty ridiculous," he said. "It's so long ... it's stray hairs. Like I said the other day, it looks like a used SOS pad."
"Kolanos, he's got the whiskers going and then Landry, he's just got a crazy beard," Sellan said. "The hairs are about 6 inches long, so he's starting to look pretty scruffy. I think he got a head start of about two, three weeks."
Of course, Leavitt is always quick to offer his opinion.
"I think Mark Kolanos is a little off-side," he said. "I actually saw him walk into a restaurant the other day and he almost got ejected for an illegal beard."
OK, that joke needs some work. How about this?
"I sit beside Landry in the dressing room so sometimes I have to bring bread crumbs in to feed the birds that are growing in it," Leavitt said.
"The guys keep looking at me on the bus and when I'm eating, they say I have stuff in it," Landry said. "It's getting a little out of hand but it's fun."