Are you ready?

This time tomorrow I will be enjoying the end of the first Penguins regular season game!  It feels like ages since they last laced up their skates. And now that several other teams have already started playing, I’m just getting jealous. I’m ready for my team to be back on the ice, too.

As a Pittsburgh hockey fan living in Cleveland for the time being, I have my fair share of hockey viewing issues. Luckily, a fellow Penguins fan at work lives just down the road from a bar that gets all the regional networks. We’ll be enjoying dinner and potentially some Yuengling with a group of friends tomorrow night. I hope this Cleveland bar is ready for some Pittsburgh pride.

It’s going to be an interesting start to the season with today’s announcement that Vokoun is out for 3-6 months and Neal is day-to-day with an upper-body injury. Not to mention that Letang is on IR. I know we have a long season ahead of us, but I’m hoping we can start off with a bang. And I have high hopes that Fleury will come out with something to prove. Despite the talk surrounding his recent performance, he is and always will be my goalie. 

Have you watched a game yet? Who are you pulling for?

Pittsburgh Penguins, Consol Energy Center

Are you ready? (Source: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images North America)

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Back in the lineup…

It’s a great day for hockey. And I’m not just saying that because I love the Penguins tagline. It’s a great day for hockey because I feel like playoff hockey is within reach. The season is coming to a close, teams are leaving it all out on the ice and my team is looking like a top contender for the Cup.

Not to mention that Sidney Crosby is back.

Sidney Crosby returns

Sidney Crosby back on the ice and making an impact. Photo by Getty Images.

Regardless of whether you’re a fan or not, you have to appreciate what it means to have him back in the game. The entire league benefits from having the best player in the world back on the ice.

Stay tuned for the latest and greatest hockey news. It’s only going to get better and better the closer we get the playoffs.

The Pittsburgh Penguins broke my heart.

The Penguins after Game 7.

That's right, feel shame. Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images.

My hockey world came crashing down in flames last night. The Penguins lost Game 7. It was a shutout. Embarassing.

Are there a million reasons why we didn’t win the series? Yes. Could I give excuses? Yes. But I expect more from the Pens. I expect them to raise Lord Stanley every year. No excuses.

So what’s a girl to do?

Apparently I’ll be cheering on the Bruins for the rest of the playoffs. Why? First, I spent my summer in Boston, and I’ll always have a place in my heart for the B’s. Second, they’re playing the Flyers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. If the Pens can’t win it all, then I would at least like to see the Flyers knocked out soon.

In the aftermath of the first round, what do you think?

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!