Not many people are aware that the tradition of growing playoff beards — in any sport — began in 1980 with the start of the New York Islanders dynasty and their four straight Stanley Cup Championships. Now, the iconic tradition of growing out facial hair has become a cultural phenomenon, whether with the famous 2013 Boston Red Sox beards or any NHL team making a deep playoff run. Fortunately, the sport that has made playoff beards a staple is finally getting them in it's annual hockey video game franchise. NHL 16 producer Ben Ross sat down to talk with us about how they'll work and why it was the right time to add them to this year's installment.
Playoff beards are iconic to hockey, why was now the right time to add them to the game?
The timing was right as we are in year 2 of development for our Next Gen hockey player and the focus has been on Superstar Authenticity which means we have added more detailed accessories/equipment than we have had before to add depth to our Create Player experience and also ensure the top stars of the game look that much closer to their real world counterparts (Everything we added this year had a star player or more in mind). Beards are a big part of that too and Playoff Beards in particular have been on fan wishlists for a while now. We have always wanted to do it right if we were going to do it. That meant both from an authenticity perspective player by player as well as having great art and rendering to visually pull them off.
Who had the most iconic playoff beard this season? The best ever playoff beard?
One of, if not thee best of the year in our books was probably one not many people got to see until he hoisted the cup because it was on the man behind the mask, Corey Crawford. Best all time? Well, in more recent years, you have to point to guys like Burns, Hartnell and Mara but when you talk about all time, you hear people talk about Bill Flett as a pioneer to the playoff beard and you can’t leave Lanny Macdonald off that list.
Logistically, how do you calculate to differentiate one player’s beard from another? Are there going to be generic beards or will there be player specific beards?
We have a number of beards that were all designed by looking at multiple photos of star players and the beards they have grown over the course of a season or on a playoff run. For each beard style, we had a couple different players in mind to make sure we could represent them in game. This not only allowed us to create playoff beards with dynamic growth but also the ability to set facial hair styles/lengths that players have during the season. Members of our team have already had to research all the different gear players wear (and we have added a bunch of new variation to that mix) but now they also have to monitor facial hair growth patterns too!
Are there certain player beards that you're more worried about than others? How much of a challenge is it to get Brent Burns beard right?
Brent Burns was definitely a player that was called out by quite a few people when we mentioned we were doing this feature. There is a specific beard style that was created with him in mind.
Will beards get longer and longer as teams progress through the playoffs?
Yes, you will see beards grow as players make their way into the later rounds of the playoffs. Some players will be able to grow bigger beards than others, while some players will just keep their specific facial hair from the season.
How does it work for younger players just coming into the league like Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel?
We can handle younger players as well as we can the vets. We have the ability to set more patchy facial hair styles, set max growth lengths or even set to no growth at all. We also have the ability to update beards like we do with equipment in roster updates.
Players aren't the only ones who grow beards during the playoffs- will fans in the stands also grow beards or is it limited to just players?
We have put some special attention into our crowd for playoff time that we think people will really like, which helps push that playoff atmosphere to the next level but they won’t be growing beards along with the players this year.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
Buffalo wings, writing, sports, and video games: those are the things that I love most in this world. If I'm not crying at the New Jersey Devils or New York Giants' most recent loss, chances are I'm playing video games. During the summer, you can find me at the golf course tearing up the ground doing my best Bubba Watson impression. Oh and by the way, the first Uncharted is the best one of the series... View Profile