The beginning of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs signals the start of the Blackhawks' championship defense, and fans might remember the full array of beards during the 2013 title run—from scraggly, to sideburn-heavy, to healthy, flourishing bushes. This year, Bryan Bickell, Brandon Bollig, Nick Leddy, Brandon Saad, Andrew Shaw and Ben Smith are participating in the Beard-A-Thon to raise money for Chicago Blackhawks Charities. Fans are also invited to grow one for the team, or pledge money in support of other beard-growers. As the team embarks on their long, hairy odyssey, they might look to historical figures and pop culture for inspiration:
Grizzly Bicks: As the Blackhawks' resident fisherman, Bryan Bickell is undoubtedly at one with mother nature. The untamed waves on top may not be his style, but growing a full-fledged Grizzly Adams beard shouldn't pose too much of a challenge for a weathered outdoorsman like Bicks.
Hossa the White: Much like Gandalf the White, Marian Hossa is no stranger to playing the hero, as he did against Nashville in the 2010 Stanley Cup run. And honestly, at times it seems like the combination of strength, power and hockey sense that Hossa showcases every game can be explained only by sorcery. What we're trying to say is, Marian Hossa is probably a wizard.
Rubeus Seabsgrid: Hogwarts' beloved gameskeeper in the Harry Potter series had a beard that could be intimidating or inviting, depending on the situation. Like Hagrid, Brent Seabrook is always there to lend help, and he's prone to showing up and making a huge impact at the most opportune times—for instance, in overtime of Game 7.
Captain Jack Serious: The captain has owned the mutton-chopped Wolverine look the last few years, so taking on a grubby pirate look may be a bit of a departure for Jonathan Toews. But what better way to shed his "Captain Serious" label than to take a page from Jack Sparrow, who isn't afraid to swashbuckle his way through life.
Brandon Bunyan: Brandon Bollig may have a natural beard-growing advantage over his teammates come playoff time, as he's an old hand at follicle maintenance. And what better beard guide for a blue-collar player than Paul Bunyan, legendary lumberjack of American folklore?
Uncle Smith: Speaking of American icons, all-American boy Ben Smith WANTS YOU! to join the Blackhawks in their march to the postseason.
Honest Nik: On the surface, there's nothing in common between Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States, and Niklas Hjalmarsson, Swedish defenseman for the Blackhawks. But both found success on the back of hard work—Lincoln was a self-educated lawyer, Hjalmarsson a shot-blocking machine—and adopting this iconic beard would certainly be a statement in the Land of Lincoln.
King Leoneddy: The soft-spoken Nick Leddy won't be mistaken for a brash warrior like King Leonidas anytime soon. But his dark, full beard has the potential to live up to the legend of the man who led Sparta into fearless battle time and time again.
Michal Hand-Zeus: The 1981 version of Clash of the Titans hasn't aged well, but Laurence Olivier's performance as Zeus is timeless. As one of the Blackhawks' elder statesmen, Michal Handzus can set the tone with a dignified, well-trimmed beard like the one Olivier sported as the ultimate Greek god.
Shaw-li: With his aggressive, stubborn style of playing belying his small stature, Andrew Shaw belongs among the mightiest warriors of Middle Earth. Gimli's fiery braided beard is one of the most impressive out there, a worthy goal for a goal-oriented player like Shaw to strive for.
MacSaad: Brandon Saad proved last year that he could grow a beard as robust as anybody on the Blackhawks, but this year's unending winter might require a bit more head protection. Saad's opponents may not be the extraterrestrial kind that Kurt Russell battled in the 1981 cult film The Thing, but he might considering growing a similar head of hair to help stay warm.