The Hershey Bears are a versatile, deep team and made the 2023 Calder Cup Finals after winning 10 of 13 playoff games in the previous three rounds. Not only have we seen great hockey from the Bears, but we’ve also been treated to something nearly as glorious.
Bears players, because of hockey superstition, put their razors down in April to participate in one of the greatest traditions in sports: playoff beards! They are literally wearing their journey on their faces.
Since we’re about a week away from the Calder Cup being given out, we thought now is the perfect time to analyze whose hair follicles have performed and whose needs to hit the bench press.
Several Capitals prospects have had impressive showings despite their age, but this was a list dominated by veterans. The winner, as you’ll see, was head and shoulders above everyone else.
#25) Logan Day, defender
The veteran defenseman scored a huge goal in the Atlantic Division Final (which an excited Aliaksei Protas accidentally tackled him for), but his beard has been non-existent in the playoffs. The mustache-mullet look makes him resemble country tag-team wrestler Brooks Jensen from WWE’s NXT. I dig it.
#24) Gabriel Carlsson, defender
Hard to make out without better photos, but my guess is there’s not much beard to see here.
#23) Joe Snively, forward
Very Luke Combs.
#22) Todd Nelson, head coach
The Bears’ bench boss may be high on the AHL’s total wins list, but his lack of effort on a playoff beard leaves him low on this one.
#21) Bryan Helmer, VP of Hockey Operations
There was once a time where Bryan Helmer would have been number one, but age has warped his bushy beard, turning it two different colors.
#20) Henrik Borgstrom, center
Big Game Borgstrom. There’s about as much hair on his neck as his face, but he just went for it. And that’s what I admire.
#19) Bogdan Trineyev, forward
The chin came through for him, but everywhere else: indecision.
#18) Aliaksei Protas, forward
He has the presence of a man twice his age, but the patchy facial hair of a high schooler. I’m confident, no – certain, his follicle-growing power catches up in the future.
#17) Beck Malenstyn, forward
Very billy goatish.
#16) Hendrix Lapierre, center
A solid effort from Hendrix’s beard, whom I expect big things from in future Capitals’ playoff runs.
#15) Zach Fucale, goaltender
Just a little patchy in important areas.
#14) Lucas Johansen, defender
After years of grooming, it’s on the precipice of graduating to the next level.
#13) Aaron Ness, defender
Olympic level, if 150 others don’t participate. But still good.
#12) Connor McMichael, center
Do I see some auburn here? Great beard just needs slightly more seasoning.
#11) Bobby Nardella, defender
The Nard Dog with a surprising showing on this list.
#10) Ethen Frank, forward
A beard that has the well-roundedness of a college graduate.
#9) Mike Vecchione, forward
Expected more from Veccs, the creator of the ROAR celebration. Of anyone that should have a perfect beard, it’s the guy that encourages his teammates to act like bears.
#8) Sam Anas, forward
He’s from Maryland, so of course I’m going to pump his tires a bit. But you have to respect the Tom Crusian-look from the Potomac native here.
#7) Riley Sutter, center
This is the type of beard production you expect from a rugged fourth-liner.
#6) Mason Morelli, forward
It could be fuller, but the sheer length of the hair is impressive.
#5) Vincent Iorio, defender
A little fuzzy, but incredibly full. The full presentation here is impressive.
#4) Shane Gersich, forward
A surprising, yet tremendous showing from Gersh, who we should never count out during the Big Moments. He’s got that James Dean babyface look, and the beard-growing power of Karl Alzner.
#3) Dylan McIlrath, defender
A beard befitting a captain who is leader-y, tough, and enjoys punching opponents’ faces.
#2) Garrett Pilon, forward
When your father is one of the most feared enforcers of all time, some of that ruggedness and machismo nautrally gets passed along.
#1) Hunter Shepard, goaltender
Hunter Shepard is the recipient of our completely made-up and imaginary Braden Holtby Award for Beard Excellence. Shep’s got hair so nice we’re gonna post a pic twice.
A truly masterful performance both on the ice and on the top and bottom of his face by Hunter Shepard, who really should be nicknamed The Huntbeast. He gives off a Kenny G. gave up the sax for woodworking vibe. Even the eyebrows participated in his look. Truly superb work.
What did I get right? What did I get wrong? Let me know in the comments.
Photos via the Hershey Bears
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