Throughout the years, professional hockey players, like their counterparts in the world of film and television, have boasted their share of outstanding mustaches. From the early days of Eddie Shack and Harold Snepsts, to the bushy red slash on Lanny McDonald's upper lip, to the porn-star chic of Anaheim Ducks enforcer (and Princeton grad) George Parros, the mustache has always been an arresting look, a visual grabber, and this is the thinking behind Movember, a men's health initiative started to bring awareness to the dangers of prostate cancer.
It began as a global movement in Australia in 2003, and last year, Minnesota Wild defenceman Nick Schultz was one of the first NHL players to embrace the cause. According to Schultz, the father of one of his closest friends developed prostate cancer some years ago and is fighting a valiant battle against one of the more treatable forms of the disease.
Through that connection, Schultz became aware of a number of different health issues relating to men of a certain age, and how, for the most part, these men don't want to discuss health questions as they arise, or even see doctors on a regular enough basis. Prostate cancer is a particularly tricky one, a test that some men shy away from or even find embarrassing.
Schultz sees that thinking among men of his father's generation and notes that "women, for the most part, tend to talk about these things. Men won't always.
"It's a generational thing a lot of times," Schultz added, and as part of a younger, more aware generation, he and some of his NHL confreres are trying to shift that thinking.
Accordingly, in the same way that the colour pink became synonymous with breast-cancer research and has dotted the NFL landscape throughout the month of October (with players and coaches wearing pink ballcaps, gloves, cleats and even mouthguards), you are going to see mustaches sprouting across the faces of NHL players next month.
Movember takes place in November, and last year raised $42-million globally.
The Canadian campaign was the second largest in the world behind Australia, with 35,958 Mo Bros and Mo Sistas raising $7.8-million for Prostate Cancer Canada. Among them were eight players on the Edmonton Oilers, including Sam Gagner, plus the entire junior Oil Kings roster and assorted members of their staff.
Once again, Schultz and a handful of his Wild teammates will try their hands at growing mustaches next month. Some had more success sprouting facial hair than others. Schultz will freely admit that his own experience with mustache growing was, well, a little hairy.
"You're supposed to start clean-shaven, from the start of the month," he said, "although a few guys got an early start. Mine was just okay. I needed to touch it up with Just For Men to fill it out a bit."
Adam Garone, the Australian-born co-founder of the Movember movement, told the Los Angeles Times last year that the initiative sprang from a discussion about 1980s fashion that he and his mates had on a lazy Sunday pub afternoon, and how everything that was once out was back in again, except for mustaches. "Our dads had them, the sports stars of the day had them," Garone said. "So, for no particular reason, we decided to grow our mos." (Mo is Australian slang for mustache.)
According to Garone, one in six men will develop prostate cancer in their lifetimes.
"It's as big an issue as breast cancer," Garone said, "but there's a significant gap in the level of funding and awareness. And I firmly put that down to the fact that we, as men, are apathetic about our health and just don't want to talk about it."
Schultz stressed how much fun the players had, and how much good it can potentially do. Traditionally, once the month is over, and just before the mustaches are shaved away, the fundraisers hold a get-together and attend as a mustachioed icon. Tom Selleck was a particular favourite, Lanny McDonald another.
This year, Schultz hopes it will become a bigger deal, with more of his teammates getting involved, as well as the Wild organization, which plans to run a promotion later in the month where the team will distribute fake mustaches at a game. All in good fun, and for a good cause.