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Is the best beard of these playoffs in the AHL? Add to ...

It's not so much the size of the beard, although that's pretty substantial, too.

But there's a uniqueness to Jerry D'Amigo's beard that his Toronto Marlies teammates can't quite put a finger on.

It could be that it's all red in one section. Or that he has food caught in it at various team meals.

Or that most of the team, which has an average age of just 23, is rather follicly challenged.

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"There's a lot going on on his face," Marlies defenceman Korbinian Holzer said.

Whatever it is, "fear da beard" has become a motto for the AHL team that will begin its bid for the Calder Cup on Friday in Norfolk, Va., with the 21-year-old D'Amigo's point-a-game pace in the postseason helping add to the superstition around it.

The Marlies hope it continues to bring them good luck after they've gone 11-2 en route to the final.

"When we go out in public, people are just looking at him," team veteran Philippe Dupuis said. "They're thinking 'Who are these guys?' "

"It's huge," said Holzer, who considers himself somewhat of an expert on strange beards given he's from the Bavaria region in Germany. "I don't know how he handles it. There's some weird stuff going on right now with food hanging in there as he eats. We just point at it; we don't touch it. No one would want to touch that thing."

"It's sort of got a mind of its own," added Will Acton. "It's growing every day and getting a little bit more disgusting."

The Marlies don't tend to get recognized around town all that much, but the facial hair certainly helps.

At a recent Toronto Blue Jays game, D'Amigo got a lot of attention for his beard when a section of fans figured out who he was and began chanting "fear da beard" as a reference to the hashtag ( #FearDaBeard) D'Amigo has been putting on Twitter throughout the playoffs.

Marlies fans, meanwhile, have been bringing beard-related posters to their games of late.

The beard even had an encounter with the Prime Minister recently, as Stephen Harper stopped to pose for a photo with Mark Fraser, Jake Gardiner and D'Amigo at Real Sports.

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"Well first off, people are scared of me," D'Amigo said of the benefits of maintaining a large playoff beard. "But a lot of people compliment me, too. Sometimes I feel a little bit ugly with this thing on, but it's all for a good cause.

"The guys [on the team]love it. In the beginning, they said I looked like a scrub, but they've started to like it because it's so masculine and it makes me look good. I think I'm going to try and do a movie role after this."

He adds that the beard has helped bring him good luck during the Marlies run.

"I think so," D'Amigo said. "It shows with our team being this far and making it to the final."

While someone like Dustin Penner will likely get most of the beard-related attention this year given he's at the NHL level, D'Amigo deserves some credit, too, especially given he has another 15-plus years of playoff runs to grow it out again.

This beard is one to keep an eye on.

Follow on Twitter: @mirtle

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