Beard battle starts anew

TODD SAELHOF -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 4:44 PM ET


 For most of the Calgary Flames, they do it because it's the tradition of Lord Stanley's Cup run.

 Some grow the playoff beard to mark their debut in the NHL playoffs.

 And others do it simply because they can.

 But despite a first post-season foray in eight years, there's no real team-wide consciousness to growing the playoff beard. In fact, one look at the Flames' lineup and it's easy to realize the commitment is patchy at best.

 "Little groups are doing different things," said Flames assistant captain Craig Conroy. "It's all a matter of opinion. And as long as we're winning, nobody's going to care what we're doing with our faces."

 Most ardent fans might cringe at such indifference. Certainly the most highly superstitious of hockey players would be shocked by the thought of going beard-free in the playoffs.

 But not the Flames, says Conroy, himself sporting a clean-shaven face this post-season.

 "I've grown beards," continued Conroy, a veteran of 42 NHL playoff games. "I've dyed my hair blond. I've tried a fu man chu. I've tried goatees.

 "It hasn't worked.

 "I always watch Stevie Yzerman and to me he seems like he's always shaven.

 "He's just going about his business, so I'm like, 'That's me, then. I've just had enough. Next time, I make the playoffs, I'm just going to shave like it's the regular season.'

 "I haven't made a long run with any other stuff."

 Those Flames who haven't made a run at all are generally bearing as many whiskers as possible. From the shocking redbeards of Jordan Leopold and Mike Commodore to the whisker-light babyfaces of Chuck Kobasew and Oleg Saprykin, it's a way to mark the occasion of their first playoffs.

 "That might be pretty accurate," said Commodore, 24. "Whenever I was watching the playoffs, I see guys with playoff beards, and I think it's a pretty neat idea. Maybe for some of these older guys, they've been through it, so the novelty wears off. But for the younger guys? I know personally for myself, I'm enjoying it."

 "You know what? I hate shaving in the first place," continued Leopold, 23. "So really, it's an easy decision. I know my wife doesn't like it but this is the time to do it. Maybe I'm being lazy but more than anything I guess it's a no-brainer."

 A no-brainer?

 How about following the lead of the team's only two-time Stanley Cup champion?

 Sticking with tradition, Stephane Yelle is sporting the full-blown beard.

 "It's always fun," said the 29-year-old Yelle with a grin. "I can just let it go, because it's part of the whole playoff thing, so it doesn't matter.

 "We haven't talked about growing beards. It depends on the team. It's just been a tradition in professional sports to do something special for playoffs, so a few of the guys are letting their beards go. But it's all part of the playoff excitement, I guess."

 Even if it's not entirely shared team-wide.

 "It used to be the trend for a while," added Flames assistant coach Rich Preston. "But the room is really tight. That's overlooked. You talk about our year and you've got to have that esprit de coeur and togetherness in the dressing room and guys getting behind each other and liking each other. We've got that."


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