It is all but scientifically verifiable. In hockey, success at this time of year may be measured by the amount of time your team’s players spend eagerly talking about facial hair. Razors get ceremonially stored away. Stubble blooms on formerly smooth cheeks. ZZ Top references are dusted off.
And so it is for the Florida Panthers as they prepare for their long-awaited return to the NHL’s Stanley Cup playoffs — a battle cry from the past unearthed once more:
The Beard Is Back!
The sport’s playoff-beard tradition rooted in team unity is credited to (or blamed on, if you prefer) the 1980s New York Islanders, and Panthers fans will be forgiven if they think it seems like that long ago when their team was last still playing in late April.