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How to Grow the Perfect Playoff Beard

It can be difficult to tell when exactly spring or fall - or even summer - begins in Canada. But there's no mistaking the beginning of Stanley Cup season. In spring, other places burst forth with flowers. In Canada, we just bloom with hair. Facial hair, specifically - provided you have the necessary hormones to sprout it.

It's all about the playoff beard, and since time memoriam - so, sometime in the '80s - NHL stars and the fans who just watch them on Hockey Night in Canada have gone feral in solidarity. 

For the truly superstitious, a playoff beard requires one to go unshaven 'til his team's elimination. But what's acceptable on the ice won't always pass office dress-code, even if your ginger "Galifianakis" would make the angels, and Lanny McDonald, weep.

With the playoffs still in their early days, it's time for a pep talk, and Matthew Collins is CBC Live's personal beard coach. 

The go-to hair consultant on Steven and Chris, Collins is an award-winning editorial stylist and co-owner of Toronto's Brennen Demelo Studios. He also has the finest beard now appearing on CBC Television, even if it isn't, by definition a "playoff beard." 

Behold!

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This face-mane has been a masterpiece-in-progress for three years.

So, you're growing a playoff beard. Here's how to do it like a pro star.

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"You don't have to spend a lot of money," Collins says. Besides, if you're already concerned with basic hygiene, as most humans, never mind hockey fans, tend to be, you already have your equipment covered. You'll need a comb, some scissors and a "cheap hair clipper set." Don't splurge on a beard trimmer. "I just generally find beard trimmers aren't the best thing to do. They're very risky," says Collins. "They always end up taking it too short." The first guard on a standard hair trimmer is his recommendation for basic maintenance.

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Your face is your canvas, one you will soon be painting with patchy hair. So, even it out before you begin. 

Collins stresses the importance of matching the length of your sideburns to your stubble before growing that beard. Grab your hair clippers, and, he says, "starting off, you want to try to blend your sideburns into the little bit of scruff you already have going on so you don't see a big difference from your sideburns to your beard." 

Make sure everything continues to grow evenly together during the process. You know when guys trim their sideburns way too high? "We don't want an anti-sideburn. That's worse."

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It'll take about two or three weeks before you can start cultivating that scruff into any particular shape. Tune into Hockey Night in Canada, sit back and dream of Scotty Niedermayer. 

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"What guys need to know is within the first two weeks it's going to itch you like crazy," says Collins. There's not much you can do but power through. Moisturizer can help, though. Whatever cream you'd typically rub onto your face when it's not carpeted, just massage it into your beard. Use it on your neck, too. 

A playoff beard can be itchy for supportive girlfriends, too, so be considerate. "Use a little bit of conditioner, just to add some softness."

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You're ready to shape that scruff, and the most-flattering play-off beard, says Collins, is one that's a little bit square. 

"Basically you can square off every face type," he says. All that takes is clipping back any bushiness around the side of your face. "After three weeks, generally if you're going to keep it going, what I tend to do is just take a little bit on the sideburns down. If you take that off it makes the face look more rectangular."

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If you're too superstitious for a full pruning, and need to let that beard flourish 'til your team claims the Cup, here are the areas to maintain: your neck, your sideburns and your upper lip.

As a general rule, be sure that the growth is even. "You want your haircut, however short it is, to somewhat blend in to your beard. It doesn't have to be perfect, but it can't be like your hair is really short to the top of your ear and all of a sudden your beard is two inches long," Collins says.

Think Henrick Zetterberg, not Scott Hartnell:

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The most important area to watch, says Collins, is your upper lip. Use scissors to prevent that walrus 'stache from growing into your mouth.

Also monitor the hair around your temples and your ears. A trim there, he says, "is the quickest way to make it look clean." Pro-tip: Always comb your beard, so all the hairs are falling in the same direction, before going in.

And be sure to mind your neck. Create a line that highlights your jaw - Collins suggests starting just above your Adam's apple, stretching to the two corners just underneath your jaw-line. Shave under that border and you'll look like a winner, no matter what's going on up top. 

"You can keep it wild and crazy, but if you just clean that up, that's the best thing." Keep on top of everything day to day.

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A Habs (or Senators or Leafs or whatever) jersey always pairs best with a playoff beard - unless you're outside the arena. 

"If you're going to grow a wild beard, you need to counter-balance that with what you wear," says Collins. "If you grow a crazy beard and you're wearing a super-casual Molson T-shirt and board shorts and flip flops, you're going to look like an absolute bum, even though you're not." 

Worried about looking more like the Big Lebowski than Lanny McDonald? For every occasion, dress a degree fancier than you typically would. "Maybe when you go to work, wear a dress shirt and tie, not a polo shirt," suggests Collins. "Your boss is going to be a little bit OK with it if you're looking really sharp every day."

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If you haven't gone through puberty and you don't have a Y chromosome, why are you even reading this?

Otherwise, it's all cool. If Sidney Crosby can "grow" a playoff beard, you can too.

"The people who can't grow their beard very well are actually the best," laughs Collins, remembering his own beard-growing contests with buddies. "I think if everyone grew a beard, it wouldn't be the same. I think some people need to not grow the beard so there are people to make fun of. In a light way, in a friendly way. Just embrace it and laugh about it."

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