Saddle up, boys and girls, consumers, sports nuts and television junkies of all ages. It’s playoff season – those two precious months of hockey and basketball glory before the doldrums of baseball’s interminable 10,000-game summer march towards mediocrity sets in. Two months which prove once again that nothing really matters until something’s on the line, and that nothing’s on the line until there’s something to win.

Now, it is common knowledge that no basketball player, save those very few “hustlers” who make their living doing “the little intangibles” on the court – running, diving out-of-bounds for balls, playing good “defense” – even breaks a sweat during the regular season. From October to April, an 82-game season is more like a traveling exhibit of bling, occasionally dropping a thunderous dunk or a screaming, raving technical foul.

But come April, those players in need of contract extensions and coaches desperate to mind these children for another year suddenly pick up a frantic whiff of playoffs in the air – as TNT’s broadcasts relentlessly intone, it’s “win or go home.” Unless you’re one of the most awful teams in the league, you’ll qualify to be blasted out of the playoffs by the few elite teams who haven’t yet realized that “go home” means golf in gorgeous spring weather. Suckers.

Now, it is not common knowledge that hockey players grow beards during their playoff run. This is because no one cares about hockey in the United States.

Unlike our northern, Molson Ice-guzzling and bear-brawling cousins, the surprise for most Americans is that the hockey season has started at all, much less progressed through its 82-game regular season to the playoffs.

Hockey players, who actually try very hard in most games and even fight other players for the sheer joy of it, are so banged-up come playoff time that the “second season” in search of Lord Stanley’s Cup is much more an endurance test than a measure of skill, excitement or flair. The beards aren’t for tradition – they’re to cover the scars of Hockey Manhood, as seen on the Outdoor Life Network and Fox Sports Halifax Five on every alternating Tuesday.

So, new rules.

For basketball, let’s start the playoffs in October, with best-of-9 series that will quickly whittle out the golf crowd and leave the rest to the sport at hand.

For hockey, let’s start the beard growing in October so by the time the bone-crushing playoffs roll around, everyone will have a nice cushy chin-’fro to shield away pucks, sticks and loneliness.