Growing One For The Team

If you have ever been in my office, either in my home district or in the State Capitol, the collection of photos, bobble heads and memorabilia has probably tipped you off to my love for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

I have been a big-time fan since I was a child, and my season tickets, situated all the way up in the cheap seats, are my one true guilty pleasure in life. So as you can imagine, NHL playoff time is one of my favorite times of the year.

For those readers out there who number among the unconverted, the NHL playoffs consist of a backbreaking tournament to determine ownership of the Stanley Cup, the oldest and most coveted trophy in professional sports.

To bring home the Cup, a team must win sixteen games coming in the form of four best-of-seven series. Thelevel of play is exhilarating and grueling all at the same time, with bitter rivalries forming as a result of playing the same team every other night for two weeks straight.

The playoffs always get my blood pumping, but this year, I decided to put away my razor and get my facial hair growing by taking part in the Pittsburgh Penguins Beard-a-thon.

The “playoff beard” is a time-honored hockey tradition. Relatively self-explanatory, most NHL players stop shaving at the start of the playoffs and do not resume until their team has been eliminated or they have won the Stanley Cup. The tradition was started in the 1980’s by the New York Islanders, reinstated in the mid 1990’s by the New Jersey Devils, and is now standard procedure not only in the NHL, but also in most college and even high school programs.

The phenomenon has spread to fans, and many teams, including the Penguins, have used the playoff beard as a way for fans to not only show support, but also to raise money for various charities. Using the Internet, beard growers can upload pictures to the Beard-a-thon website, which allows people to vote for their favorite beards and also make 100% tax deductible donations to “pledge” someone’s beard.

When trying to decide whether or not to put away my razor for a few weeks, I was torn between thefreedom of not shaving and the reality that I could easily look like a vagrant, which depending on how you view public officials, could be considered an upgrade to some people. In the end, knowing I would help raise money for a worthy charity made my decision an easy one.

I stopped shaving on April 13, and have since shattered my previous “not-shaving” record of nine days. I did force a couple of conditions on myself, considering that pictures taken at various public functions could be used in a less-than-flattering light against me in my next election.

It’s a shame I have to think that way, but history has demonstrated otherwise. In the spirit of compromise, I allowed myself to trim my neck and continue to shave my head. As one friend remarked, I’m sporting the playoff beard of a modern young professional on the move, which doesn’t make much sense but has a nice ring to it.

But the most important aspect of the Beard-a-thon is the charitable benefit. The Mario Lemieux Foundation was created in 1993 by Penguins legend Mario Lemieux and is dedicated to raising funds for cancer and neonatal research as well as Austin’s Playroom Project, an initiative that creates sibling playrooms in medical facilities.

The Penguins Beard-a-thon has already raised approximately $50,000 this year alone, and you can make a 100 percent tax-deductible contribution, or just check out and vote for my beard here.

At least now if you see me with my beard, you’ll understand I have chosen to look like a vagrant, but all in the name of a great cause. Lets go Pens!!!

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