Stanley Cup Playoff beards raise money and awareness

Playoff beards. In hockey, they are a tradition and a superstition. You know the best hockey of the year is about to be played when your favorite players stop shaving. You hope your team stays in the running long enough that the young guns can actually grow more than peach fuzz. Over at The Sports Dish, you can see pictures of the best beards in recent years.

Former player Denis Potvin knew how to work a playoff beard. He led the New York Islanders to four Stanley Cup victories. Photo by Getty Images.

Former player Denis Potvin knew how to work a playoff beard. He led the New York Islanders to four Stanley Cup victories. Photo by Getty Images.

It started as just something the players did, but now it has spread through the fans and is even being used as a tactic to raise money for charity. Beards as a public relations tool? In the National Hockey League, I would expect nothing less. Each team in the playoffs has its own Beard-A-Thon website to bring fans together and fundraise. There are also Facebook and Twitter outlets for the cause.

A best practices case study:
The Pittsburgh Penguins Beard-A-Thon

Last year the Penguins put the playoff beards of players and fans to good use and raised money for The Mario Lemieux Foundation through the Beard-A-Thon. Along with the players, more than  1,700 fans participated and they raised more than $113,000 for the foundation. The money comes in through donations of “beard sponsors,” people who give money in support of your beard. Pictures showing growth through the playoffs are posted online for everyone to see.

Pittsburgh Penguin Max Talbot shows off his playoff beard in full force while hoisting the Stanley Cup in 2009. Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images.

Pittsburgh Penguin Max Talbot shows off his playoff beard in full force while hoisting the Stanley Cup in 2009. Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images.

It’s a perfect public relations tactic. The entertainment factor is met by allowing fans to “grow one for the team,” and hockey fans (especially in Pittsburgh) are known for going above and beyond to show love to their team. An event like this one is also bound to garner media coverage. Each year during the playoffs, sports news outlets talk about the beards. Through the beard-growing contest, the Penguins will get even more coverage because there is an important cause behind the event. And to me, that’s the most important part. Regardless of the media coverage or the extra bond it creates among fans, the best part of the Beard-A-Thon is that it has a true, worthwhile purpose. That’s something every sports fan can get behind.

A new weekly beard feature

In honor of the beauty of playoff beards, I will be posting regularly about the best beards of this year’s playoffs. I was thinking about picking the best beard of each round or maybe posting photos and asking you readers to guess who the beard belongs to. Let me know what you would like best!

*This blog post was inspired by and is dedicated to Katie Young, my friend and fellow Kent State PR student. Katie has a pretty serious love for beards of all kinds, but especially playoff beards (and Rick Nash’s beard in particular!). She suggested (really demanded) that I write a blog post about the power of playoff beards. Katie also writes for The Art Experience, her own art/art museum public relations blog. Check it out!


25 thoughts on “Stanley Cup Playoff beards raise money and awareness

  1. Well put, Carrie! Fun tactics like this are sure to get people talking, but the best ones have a truly great cause behind them.

    That being said, I am SAD to say Rick Nash will not be able to show off his beard growing skills this playoff season. Now my vote is for Max Talbot, but I’ll have my eye on Letang’s too…

    Viva los beardies!

  2. Excellent post, Carrie! I absolutely LOVE the whole concept and idea behind the beards. What seemed like a small tradition literally grew (no pun intended) into this great hockey phenomenon.

    It’s so refreshing to see athletes have fun and do something good for the community at the same time!

    Looking forward to the beard season 🙂

    • Erin, I’m sure that pun was intended. haha. You’re right though, it is very refreshing to see athletes having fun for a good reason, especially with all the scandals lately. It seems like those good moments never get as much press as the bad, but I guess that will be our job as sports PR people. We’ll need to make sure the good outshines the bad whenever we can.

  3. Carrie,
    I’m showing the PR Principles students your blog as an example. Look for comments from the students this week. Just learned about hockey players’ beards.
    Congrats on internship.

    • Hi Michele, thanks for helping to get the word out about this blog. How exciting! I hope the PR Principles students enjoy it, and I look forward to their comments. It seems like I was just in their shoes. I’m happy to hear you’ve learned something important about hockey. haha. And thank you! I’m still on cloud nine about the internship!

  4. I am completely clueless when it comes to hockey, but after reading your post about hockey players growing beards during the Stanley Cup playoff, I became interested in this topic and did a little research of my own. I read an article about the Phoenix Coyotes holding their own “Beard-A-Thon,” and are inviting their fans to join in and support a worthy cause such as supporting their local community by supporting non-profit organizations. I never thought much of hockey because I was never interested in the sport but bringing the beard growing to light and getting the message out there that hockey players are willing to support their own community is great!

    • Thanks for the comment, Stacy. If nothing else, I’m happy that this post made you research hockey. You should know that it is the greatest sport in the world. And I’m interested that you found the Coyotes. They’re doing much better than people expected this post-season. Definitely a team to watch right now.

  5. Wow! Who knew that beards could be used as a PR tool? I also am not much of a hockey fan, but this definitely has sparked my attention! This is a definitely a fun and interesting way to get fans even more revved up about their hockey team and bring in large amounts of revenue for fund raising. Also, I like your idea of picking the best beard of the rounds the best! This will easily get alot of great positive press! 🙂

    • Also, I would like to add that it would be a great idea if there were fake, colored beards available for fans,so that they could strap them onto their face. The colored beards would each represent a team’s colors. This way fans watching the game can show their support and be more involved in the fun. Just an idea!

      • Great idea, Katie! I think the fans would have a lot of fun with fake beards. The teams’ marketing and promotions departments could hand them out when people walked into the arena. I know they give a lot of free things out to fans, especially during the playoffs. Usually they give out rally towels or t-shirts for a white-out. Beards would be hilarious though! Thanks for the comment!

  6. Wow! Who knew growing a beard could create such a “buzz.” I think it’s an awesome tradition among the players and the fans to create a friendly competition. It seems to be an inexpensive PR tactic that gains a lot of free media coverage and support. I agree with Katie Steinhoff’s idea about giving fake beards to fans to wear during the games. This tactic could be similar to Cleveland Cavaliers Anderson Varejao’s wig night where everyone that attended a specific game was given a free “Andy wig” to wear. This created a lot of free “buzz” and was featured on the evening news. I think a tactic that will generate free buzz is always a good option. Another inexpensive tactic that could support The Mario Lemieux Foundation is to create a friendly fan Beard-A-Thon. Local communities could create a bread growing contest between highly involved hockey fans. People involved in the contest would have to pay an entry free or have other people sponsor them and all the proceeds could go towards The Mario Lemieux Foundation. If the hockey players can do it, why can’t the fans do it as well.

    Over all, this is a great PR tactic because it is inexpensive and creates a lot of free “buzz” and generates a lot of opinion leaders. This is a great story!

    • Thanks for adding to the conversation, Stacy. You’re right. It’s a very inexpensive tactic, and those are always a good thing! When you can bring cheap, but effective tactics to the table, I think that impresses higher-up PR people. Also, I’m guessing that you’re a Pittsburgh fan if you know about The Mario Lemieux Foundation. What a great organization! I used the foundation for a project in PR Tactics, and I had a blast with the research and planning!

  7. Carrie,
    Excellent post on the topic. You wrote this post so well that many people are now interested on the topic.

    I have never really been interested in the NHL, but I did previously know a little bit about the beard-a-thon. Many of my friends watch hockey, and have told me about it. We all agree that is so very awesome to see the players having fun with something so simple, but also for a great cause.

    I also agree with Katie Steinhoff about how they should have the fake colorful beards at the door! That would bring so much more fun to the hockey games, and would bring the fans together even more.

    • Thank you, Jackie! You should watch a few playoff games with your hockey-loving friends. This is the best time of the year to get into the sport. And I agree,anything that brings the fans together is great!

  8. Carrie,
    This was a great article! This is a perfect example of teaching us students about PR, while keeping our attention at the same time! I was so suprised to find that a fellow student had wrote this, it was so professional. This also was a great topic! It’s amazing how much people can raise without spending so much money on the cause. With this cause, there is really no need to advertise,the love of fans provide that. I also really like your idea about posting the best beards of each round and letting us guess whose they are. The only problem with that might be that people who dont watch hockey regularly will not be able to guess.

    • Thanks for the comment, Paige! And I appreciate your compliments on my writing! When fans can do the advertising for you through their love of the cause, that makes a huge difference. You’re right about the beard-guessing contest. I’m still not sure what I’m going to do, but I definitely need to start posting more often. It’s hard being a student and trying to keep the content fresh on a blog, but it’s so important.

  9. Carrie,

    i know my fair share about hockey and all the little superstitions the players may believe in and support, but i must say that i had no idea that the beard growing superstition was being used as a charity tactic. I knew that when it came to the playoffs hockey players would not shave until they were knocked out or won the stanley cup. I think they put it in their contracts if you ask me. But i was delighted to find out that the beards were also being used to support a good cause. It is a fun way to get the fans involved during the most exciting part of the year for hockey.

    This is a wonderful PR tactic being used and im glad beard growing can not only be fun but it can also help benefit someone else. Good article Carrie

    • Hi, Eric! It’s nice to hear from a Principles student who knows about hockey! You are few and far between. haha. It’s interesting that you didn’t know about the charity aspect to the beards. Maybe that shows that the NHL needs to do better promotion in that area. Thanks for the comment!

  10. Carrie,
    I know little to nothing about hockey and any of it’s traditions. However, i’m really glad your posts are informative and bring in an aspect of the sport that really shows tradition and a bit of fun. It’s always great to see how teams can fight and challenge on the ice, but also off the ice with their strategy of growing beards. Your using great PR in your blog showing the creative and fun sides of sports that many people don’t see. Keep up the good work!!

    • Thanks, Jessica! I’m glad you enjoyed my posts. I hope you keep coming back so you can learn more about hockey and public relations!

  11. Carrie,
    I don’t know a ton about hockey, but I do enjoy watching it. After reading your article, it makes me want to watch hockey more so I can compare the best beards. What these men are doing as far as growing their beards to raise money for the organization I think is amazing. Not only have I seen stuff on the beard growing from your article, but I have also seen stuff on tv sports channels talking about the men growing their beards. By these men growing their beards, they are raising awareness in an unusual way, grabbing many peoples’ attention, which is an excellent PR tactic. Thanks for the informative/fun article about the Pittsburgh Penguins mens beard growing expedition!

    • What a great compliment to hear that you want to watch more hockey now! And this is definitely the best time of the year to be watching. It’s also good to hear that you’ve learned about playoff beards through media outlets. That shows how much attention it can bring to the NHL. Thanks for commenting!

  12. Carrie,
    I really enjoyed reading your blog. I never enjoyed watching hockey on TV. However, in person it is the most exciting game to attend. My family used to take my cousins and I to the Sabres game in Buffalo. Reading this article gets me more interested in hockey. I think it was a great PR tactic to have the hockey players to grow their beards. I think its a great way to raise money because an easy way to feel connected with the team. It gives the community and players a hope to win and a creative way to give back. Thank you for a great article.

    Sofia Gonzalez

    • Thanks, Sofia! Hockey in person is always better than on TV. That’s actually a topic of debate in the world of hockey. It’s so important to get fans to the games because that’s when they really become attached to the sport. I bet those Sabres games were fun! And you’re right, connecting teams to communities is essential in growing the game.

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