Download Flash Player to view this content.

One of the finest traditions in hockey is the playoff beard.

Every post-season, 16 teams and over 400 players put down their Gillette shavers and refuse to shave again until their team is either eliminated from the playoffs or wins the Stanley Cup.  

Throughout the long course of the playoffs, beards can take on many different shapes and sizes, and often times the results can be hairy.

Many players will exit the playoffs looking like Grizzly Adams after a year spent scavenging in the Canadian wilderness.

However, it wasn't a rugged mountaineer who started this superstitious ritual.

According to tradition, the New York Islanders are widely credited with starting the fad during the 1980s when they won four consecutive hair-raising Stanley Cups.

Several of the players, including Denis Potvin and Bryan Trottier, grew out their beards to support the team and show their commitment.

After the Islanders success, players throughout the league began growing their facial hair in the post-season with the hope of similar success and before long a tradition was born.

Bragging rights are also on the line when a player grows their playoff beard.

If a player has quite a long beard it usually means his team has gone quite far into the playoffs, an impressive feat.

Unfortunately, this method of measurement is not always accurate since some players will turn into human Chia Pets quite easily, while others have a hard time growing even a little scruff.  

Some players, like Detroit Red Wing Kris Draper, can go to bed and wake up the first day of the playoffs with a full beard, while others, like Pittsburgh Penguin Sidney Crosby, are more follically challenged.

Good thing for the Penguins that Sid the Kid is far better at scoring goals than growing a beard!

Since this superstitious practice started in the 1980s, the playoff beard has expanded into the CFL, the NFL and to a lesser extent, the NBA.

It has become a symbol of a player's dedication, toughness, and strength, plus it can be down right intimidating if worn by the right person.

NHL management has even begun supporting this tradition and has taken steps to encourage the growth of the playoff beard across the league.

Many team venues contain banners or advertisements encouraging fans to grow their beards and even send in their photos.

In response, fans have sent pictures of beards dyed in correspondence with their team's colours. In some cases, there have even been pictures of women and babies with fake beards.

In 2009, when the Red Wings began the playoffs, the team handed out playoff beards to each of the fans entering the Joe Louis Arena.  Talk about a Kodak moment!

However, one team that never followed the playoff beard tradition was the 1994 Stanley Cup winning New York Rangers. 

The team refused to follow a tradition, which the rival Islanders began.

But regardless of where you stand on this hairy issue, it looks like the playoff beard is now a permanent furry fixture of the Stanley Cup playoffs and will be for many years to come.