Beard Watch 2016: NHL meets American Civil War

We were faced with an existential question: How are we to conduct a ‘Beard Watch’ when beards are so hot right now?

The St. Louis Blues Twitter account said as much after a tussle between David Backes and Joe Thornton that saw the Blues captain give Jumbo Joe a tug on the beard.


Players are notoriously superstitious. While they may not say it outright, the idea of them shaving off their season-long beards to start the playoffs could be panic inducing.

Inspired by a tweet from Chris Peters of CBS Sports, we decided to take a different angle this time, and look to American history to help us do it:


With only American teams making the playoffs, it’s feels fitting we go back and look at the United States’ Civil War, and compare a bunch of Canadians to the facial hair of those from the past.

Most commanders were rocking some sort of facial hair as they lead their troops into battle, so naturally, we can see why teams in the playoffs would adopt this behavior. Take a look at the distribution of the various hair types from a study in Proceedings of the Natural Institute of Science (or PNIS…):

Perhaps we’ve uncovered the true secret of winning the Stanley Cup based on this graphic. If a team wants to win, they have the most facial hair, as the Union commanders did above.

Up first…

Joe Thornton and an Unknown Soldier 

Perhaps this unknown soldier made his way up to Canada at some point in time because these two look like they could be related, facial hair wise, right down to the skunk stripe in the middle of their beard. Thornton even has the little curls at the top of his beard.

Letting the beard grow appears to be the secret sauce to his stellar regular season and the playoffs.

Nick Bonino and Sergeant James Bishop White of Company B, 60th Tennessee Infantry Regiment

Sergeant Bishop was a confederate soldier who was captured by Grant’s Army during the Battle of Big Black River on May 17, 1863. According to a family biographer, he spent the rest of the war as a POW at Point Lookout, Maryland.

Bonino is one of the few American born bearded ones on our list. He came to the Pittsburgh Penguins via the Vancouver Canucks for Brandon Sutter. Prior to that, he was a part of the trade that sent Ryan Kesler to Anaheim.

His propensity to be traded should be viewed as a compliment. He’s a clutch, under the radar performer for all the teams he’s played on. Where Justin Williams is Mr. Game 7, Bonino should be considered Mr. Game 6. He’s scored multiple goals in those all important games to give his team the win.

Brian Boyle, Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Nathaniel Prime, and Tony Stark

The three men have a New York connection.

Boyle is a former New York Ranger on his third straight trip to the Eastern Conference Final, but this time as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Brevet Colonel Prime was born in New York City. He received commendations for his participation in the Battle of Spotsylvania and the Battle of the Wilderness from the New York legislature.

Tony Stark (also known as Iron Man) lives in New York City. He holds the middle ground between Boyle’s ‘stache and goatee combo and the Colonel’s thicker, fuller version.

Marc-Andre Fleury and Second Lieutenant Adelbert Ames

Like Fleury, Ames was a young prodigy at his craft. He graduated fifth in his class at West Point and was mentioned among a prestigious group of ‘boy generals’ during the Civil War. Ames was valued for his ability to train and mentor his charges, and allow them to go on to succeed under his watchful eye. When called upon, he’d jump back into action without hesitation.

Kind of like Fleury and Matt Murray, eh?

Fleury hasn’t the seen any action in the post-season just yet, but his goatee-soul patch combination have been a staple since he came into the NHL.

Brent Burns and Joseph D. Knight of the 111th Illinois Co. D.

This was the most difficult decision to make. There are SO MANY bearded Civil War veterans that could look like Burns. However, most of them kept their beards trimmed in a shapely manner. Private Knight did not, and it’s probably because he couldn’t. From Civil War Beards Tumblr:

He was shot in both hands at Moscow,TN.  This photograph was taken at the Harewood Hospital outside Washington where Private Knight was sent prior to being discharged in July 1865. 


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Future beard we’d like to see from Brent Burns…

This is Major General Alpheus Williams who, according to, “… was originally a member of the Michigan militia and was training volunteers when the Civil War began. He was heavily engaged in the Battle of Antietam, and his division also saw action in the Battles of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, finishing its war service during Gen. Sherman’s March to the Sea.”

We doubt he was able to keep this impressive style during the heat of battle, and Burns would definitely have difficulty doing the same. Instead, might we suggest Burns trying this out for the NHL Awards? He’s always been one to take fashion chances.


Who knew Lieutenant Thomas B. Bunting was just Corey Perry in disguise?

Bunting was 74 years old when he passed away in California in 1906. He outlived most in that era especially considering the times and the incident that caused his death.

From the Santa Cruz Public Library:

“The General’s death will be regretted by a large number of friends and acquaintances, who knew him for a kind and courtly gentleman, kind to all and a thoroughly good citizen. He had been ailing for about two years, and ever since he had an accident with a fractious horse about five years ago and had two of his ribs broken he had been in poor health. The immediate cause of death was heart and kidney disease.”

Considering what happened with Perry and Patrik Laine at Worlds, he can add the country of Finland to the places that will not consider him a ‘kind and courtly gentleman’ like his mustachioed doppleganger.

Perry does have a beard, by the way. It’s just flesh colored.