It's the playoff beard.
|Maxime Talbot's Beard|
It started in the 80's with the Edmonton Oilers dynasty but faded away, only to be rekindled by the 1995 Cup winning New Jersey Devils. It was pretty much the only positive thing to have come from New Jersey since just about ever. Yes, the team that would be partially responsible for the shut down of the league in 10 years made the playoff beard one of the NHL's greatest symbols.
After the Hurricanes successful attempt to nab Lord Stanley the defenseman was part of a charitable event that helped raise money for the honor of shaving his considerable growth. Even now that spirit lives on in the annual Beard-A-Thon, at current count with near $300,000 raised for charity. Your favorite player or person will grow a beard and you become a sponsor, paying them money to their charity as they grow.
It's been tried with other sports but it's never quite caught on as it has in hockey. It's so ingrained with players that even those players that can't quite grow it either still attempt it (poor Sidney Crosby) or adapted to a way that fits them so they can be with the team (witness last year's mullet by Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane). Even fans happily get in on the act. For some the beard lasts longer than their team of choice.
For just shy of two months the warriors of the NHL have the honor of not shaving if they are able to make it to the promised land. Perhaps it's the concept of unity, the warrior like visage, the odd idea of having facial hair in the summer time, or that it's uniquely NHL that makes it so popular with the skate set. Either way, no player is happier to have their moment in the sun feature their grizzly face. It means they've accomplished something special that few others have. They've reached the top and no one can take that from them.