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In full bloom

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks
Let it grow, let it grow, let it grow.

Tis the season of burly beards with the 2008-09 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs getting underway Wednesday and already a few of the Vancouver Canucks are looking a little grizzly.

It’s an age old hockey tradition that playoff bound players drop their razors and put on their warrior faces in lieu of the clean look; for nearly 30 years flowers haven’t been the only things in full bloom come spring.

There aren’t many rules except no shaving after you play your first game, other than that it’s a free-for-all of whiskers that the Canucks are hoping will have them resembling ZZ Top by the end of the post-season.

“I don’t know if it’s going to be big, but I’m going to try my best to have it really long and dirty,” joked Steve Bernier, who last shaved on April 8 and will fully resemble a drifter in roughly a week.

For Bernier, who has advanced to the second round of the playoffs twice in the last four years, both as a member of the San Jose Sharks, letting go and sprouting all that he can is a playoff ritual that he has never toyed with.

Eight years ago Bernier led the midget AAA Gouverneurs de Ste-Foy to an Air Canada Cup championship (now known as the Telus Cup) and even though he couldn’t bud a pencil moustache to save his life back then, he grew what he could.

“At the time when you’re young everyone is comparing and it’s like ‘oh, I got more than you do,’ and it’s a lot of fun.”

Don’t expect that competition to let up just because these players are on hockey’s biggest stage, if anything there’s more on the line in producing a manly face mullet than ever before.

Judging by the growth players had on and off this season, Roberto Luongo will be in the running for biggest bushel when all is said and done, although his start date has yet to be determined.

“It’s day by day, there’s no set schedule for that,” said Luongo, who was sporting a nice five-o-clock shadow last Friday, but showed up for practice Monday with only a soul patch.

“It was a matter of feeling and it was pretty long, but I’m good to go now.”

Although nothing has been formally discussed in the locker room, it’s assumed that most Canucks will be rocking chin curtains before long.

“I shaved on Sunday so today will be day one and hopefully in two months it’s down past my shoulders,” laughed Ryan Johnson, a few prickly prickles pricking from his face.

“In the playoffs in the past I’ve let it go, unfortunately I haven’t been able to let it buck for two months like I’ve wanted to.”

Who does Johnson resemble with a face full of fuzz?

Well, his beard doesn’t get as bushy and intense as that of former Canuck and current St. Louis Blues defenceman Mike Weaver, who already has a few inches of growth and was jokingly referred to as the Unabomber by Vancouver play-by-play man John Shorthouse earlier this week, but that’s probably a good thing.

Johnson said his look is a tad more appealing, a tad more refined and debonair.

“I’d say I’m a red-tinted Jack Sparrow,” he smirked.

We’ll see about that.

What we won’t have to wait for is the look a few Canucks are going for this playoffs, but then again, they don’t really have a choice.

It’s baby-face or bust for guys like Alex Burrows and Mason Raymond, guys so clean cut and scruffless that were it not for their height, trick-or-treating on Halloween would still be a go.

They’ll be the butt of many jokes if the Canucks can pounce on the Blues and make a good run at the Stanley Cup – no, wait, they’re already being called out and the puck has yet to drop on post-season play.

“It’s different for everyone,” Willie Mitchell pointed out.

“A few guys can grow one overnight like Lui and I like that, real thick, real dense, and a couple guys shouldn’t even try and bother, like Alex. He should maybe do a sweeper or something like that, just a good moustache, he might be able to rock one of those.

“I don’t think Burr has any hope so I don’t know what he’s going to do and same with Mason, they’ll have a competition for the least facial hair for sure,” added Luongo.

“I think Mason doesn’t have to worry about it, he should buy a fake beard or something,” smiled Bernier.

In Raymond’s defence, he said he’s in fact been working on his playoff beard longer than anyone else, “I’ve been growing this for 23 years.”

That kind of dedication makes it clear the Canucks are more than ready for the post-season to begin and the team has all of Vancouver excited about its chances of doing some real damage.

The Blues can huff and puff all they want but the Canucks aren’t going anywhere – not by the hair on their chinny chin chins.
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World beard champion

  5.33 - Measurement in metres of the longest beard ever (17 feet 6 inches)

5.5 - Inches whiskers grow per year

27.5 - Length of the average man's beard (in feet) if he never shaved

- Amount of time the average man will spend shaving in a lifetime

30,000 - Number of whiskers on the face of the average man

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