The ECHL gets a little hairy in November

This article can be found published on Something’s Bruin.
"I got some comments about how it has started to turn red a bit." -Dave Cowan (Candice Monhollan)

“I got some comments about how it has started to turn red a bit.” -Dave Cowan (Candice Monhollan)

Facial hair and hockey players typically go hand-in-hand when the playoffs come around in April.

However, for the last few years, players have been donning the whiskers five months earlier in support of a cause so accurately entitled Movember.

Movember begins on the first day of November and lasts the entire month. Participants toss the razors aside and grow moustaches which get sponsored by friends, family and, in the case of hockey players, their fans.

The cause helps to raise awareness for men’s health, and more specifically, it focuses on prostate cancer.

It has gained a lot of attention in the NHL, but they weren’t the only league that had its fair share of participants. The hair-raising cause is also supported across the United States by players in the ECHL, the “AA” minor hockey league.

“[It’s] just good to support prostate and testicular cancer,” said Rob Kwiet, a defenseman with the Reading Royals. “All the guys do it.”

Eight teams in the league set up donations pages on the official Movember Foundation Web site (us.movember.com). Out of those eight, a combined 129 players took part in raising money through the site.

Once the calendar flipped to the final month of the year, a total of $6,719 was raised, with the most coming from the Stockton Thunder out of California who tallied in at $5,586.

The players weren’t alone in their efforts. Several referees and linesmen also participated in Movember. Their donations page had a total of 23 officials taking part in the cause and raised $80.

"I just wanted to be different and get the handlebars going." -Rob Bordson (Candice Monhollan)

“I just wanted to be different and get the handlebars going.” -Rob Bordson (Candice Monhollan)

“I think it has taken off largely because of the traditional playoff beards you see each spring,” said Joe Babik, the ECHL’s director of communications. “Facial hair is a large part of the fabric of hockey, and Movember has become a good off-shoot of that.”

The other 12 teams in the league, like the Royals and Trenton Titans, may not have set up a donations page, but it didn’t stop the players from growing moustaches on their own. Money wasn’t raised, but it was another way for them to show their support.

For some of the players in the league, they grew moustaches over the month for personal reasons.

“Everyone does it back home [in Burlington, Ontario],” said Corey Syvret, a defenseman with the Titans. “A lot of my friends raise money for it.”

But for others, they wore the facial hair just to support the cause.

“It’s good to get the awareness out of that,” said Dave Cowan, another defenseman with the Royals. “The more people do it, the more aware of it they’ll be and the better off it is for the cause.”

The Movember Foundation began in Melbourne, Australia with its first yearly event in 2003. The goal was to “change the face of men’s health.”

Since that time, the cause spread rapidly and has seen more than 1.1 million registrants worldwide and raised more than $174 million, according to their site.

In the United States alone, more than 64,500 people joined in and were sponsored $7.5 million total in 2010.

Raising money and awareness may be the goal of Movember, but watching the players over the course of the month brings enjoyment to fans and between teammates and opponents.

“It brings all the guys together and it brings a couple laughs in the room and out on the ice,” Kwiet said. “We’ve got a couple of guys that we make fun of that can’t grow moustaches. I won’t mention any names, but everyone tries, for the most part.”

"I've only been able to grow a moustache for a couple years." -Rob Kwiet (Candice Monhollan) NOTE: Kwiet trimmed his up before the picture.

“I’ve only been able to grow a moustache for a couple years.” -Rob Kwiet (Candice Monhollan) NOTE: Kwiet trimmed his up before the picture.

The same could be said amongst the Titans.

“There are a couple guys with the baby face and they obviously get a hard time about it and some of the older guys that can grow a good one didn’t,” Syvret said. “We’ve got to harass them a little bit and just keep the mood light in the locker room.”

Care to reveal any names?

[Ryan] Hayes is one of those guys that couldn’t really grow one,” he said. “He looks like he did when he came out of the womb. Lucky for him, but he can’t grow a moustache.”

Despite the inability of some to grow more than some fuzz, those who could opted for the normal moustache, while others were more courageous in their attempts with handlebars and Fu Manchu’s.

“I started with a Fu Manchu, and then I trimmed it up and went to just a moustache,” Cowan said. “I don’t know how to really make them look good. This day and age, I don’t think it’s too common with young guys to be wearing moustaches and look good in them.”

The rugged looks were seen all over the ice, but the players got the occasional odd looks when they ventured out into the public.

“I definitely get weird looks, especially in grocery stores,” said Rob Bordson, a forward with the Titans. “When you’re waiting in line and the cashier gives you a double-take, then you finally realize, ‘Oh, I have a moustache.’ You laugh about it.”

No matter the funny glances or chirps between teammates and opponents, the majority of players kept the razors stashed away for all 30 days of the month. There were some exceptions, as some of the Royals players decided to ditch the whiskers in hopes of changing their fortunes during a losing slump.

"It’s not a very good one." -Corey Syvret (Candice Monhollan)

“It’s not a very good one.” -Corey Syvret (Candice Monhollan)

But for the players who kept the facial hair going, once Dec. 1 hit, sinks became filled with the remnants of the sometimes questionable attempts at moustaches as the players returned to the clean look

“It’ll be gone tonight or tomorrow,” Cowan said. “Hopefully the roommates won’t get mad with all the hair everywhere.”

But a few players have decided to keep the trend going into the new month.

“I don’t have anyone to impress,” Bordson said. “My girlfriend’s back home, so maybe when she comes out to visit me I’ll get rid of it, but I don’t mind having it. It’s kind of a joke. The guys get a good laugh out of it.”

Fun times and locker room ribbings aside, the league sees Movember as a great cause for the players to get involved with. Though the ECHL will more than likely never create a mandate for the teams to participate, they are content with letting them decide whether they choose to take part.

“It is important for the teams and players to become involved in their community, and this is another way of doing that,” Babik said. “It shows that the teams and players are invested in making a difference and have concerns larger than playing well on the ice.”

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Categories: ECHL, Features, Ice Hockey, Sports

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2 Comments on “The ECHL gets a little hairy in November”

  1. wendy
    December 6, 2011 at 8:41 AM #

    I’m not a big hockey fan, someone insisted I read your article, and I was not disappointed. This Movember article let’s you see the personal and humerous side of the players that you normally wouldn’t see. Well done!

  2. December 6, 2011 at 12:12 PM #

    Absolutely incredible read, Candice! And I loved Bordson’s comments. Even when I was growing my stache (still am), I was getting comments from a couple of the high school athletes and coaches busting my balls about the stache. Love explaining what it means though and it’s awesome.

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