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Some guys have all the luck. Not only are they gifted with superior athletic talent, including a blistering slap shot, speed, and great hands—but to top it all off, they also have great hair. They shine on the ice and then sport luscious locks walking out of the locker room. Hockey hair is a big part of the game. It shows attitude, dedication, and can even make you look faster on the ice.
Whether you call it chop, moss, lettuce, salad, or flow, hair is a big part of the game of hockey. Today’s National Hockey League players often set the standard for flow, but youth pick up on those cues, and curls can be seen peeking out from under helmets in leagues from Mites to Juniors. The older the players get, the more likely they are to take their hair seriously. Having good flow means you’ll be identified as a hockey player everywhere you go, and on the ice, your opponents will see a player who is dedicated to the game and the lifestyle.
No one can say when “flow” became a thing, partly because hockey players largely mimicked the hairstyles of the day. The earliest days seem clean cut compared to the flow that developed beginning in the 1970s—and it really took off in the 1980s. In fact, in the 1950s and ’60s, 90 percent of the players looked like someone’s Canadian dad at the bar. But hockey hair really got its start in the 70s when men, in general, tended to have longer hair. It was during this time that hockey players with longer hair were noticed for their hair “flowing” behind them as they raced up the ice. Of course, it stood out more because the ’70s was before helmets were widely used (they were mandated after 1979 for new players) so the flow was on full display. And 1977 gave us the Hanson Brothers in the movie Slap Shot, glorifying flow in a big way. Trends in the ’80s were for popular hairstyles, including some strange stuff that came out of music and movies (for example, the hairstyles worn by the English new wave band, A Flock of Seagulls), but throughout the ’80s and ’90s, the mullet remained strong. When Billy Ray Cyrus went all Achy Breaky in 1992, he wasn’t the only one rocking the “business in the front, party in the back” look.
While great flow is all about the hair on top of your head, don’t be afraid to accessorize with a monster chin curtain or a prodigious crumb catcher. Beards and mustaches are part of hockey flow and they fit right in with the NHL tradition of growing playoff beards. And while it’s tradition to stop shaving during the playoffs, many hockey players have taken it a step further and sport a beard all season. By the time the playoffs roll around, all manner of face fuzz is held down by chinstraps. Some go big and wild like the San Jose Sharks’ center Joe Thornton and defenseman Brent Burns. But other players keep them tightly trimmed and neatly manicured at all times.
Barry Melrose has one of the longest associations with great flow of anyone involved with the game, from his days as a player in the World Hockey Association and National Hockey League, to coach in Los Angeles, where he took the Kings to the Stanley Cup finals in 1993, to television analyst today. Along the way, he rocked the mullet while slowly transforming it into the slicked-back style he wears now, with long hair swooped straight back and flowing down the neck.
Al Iafrate’s legendary skullet is alternately honored and ridiculed. Iafrate was a big defenseman who held the record for the hardest slap shot in the NHL at 105.2 mph (169.3 kph) for 16 years. But after 12 NHL seasons, mostly with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Washington Capitals, many still know him only as the player whose balding dome didn’t stop him from sporting a mullet with the Caps. The receding hairline left Iafrate with an island of hair on the front of his head and a long mullet in the back.
Wayne Gretzky was officially nicknamed The Great One, but some call him The Great Mullet for his flow during a 20-year playing career. Gretzky is the only player to score more than 200 points in a season—and he did it four times. He scored more than 100 points in 16 different seasons—including 14 consecutive years—and retired with 61 NHL records to his name. Widely considered the best hockey player ever to play, he also boasted one of the greatest mullets, that tended to be a little on the fluffy and flowy side. Gretzky’s mullet started out like a rookie, a little wispy, but soon his hockey flow was a perennial all-star. Despite a slow start to his flow during his early days with Edmonton in the 1980s, his mullet went full Hollywood when he played for the LA Kings in the 1990s. The resulting hair could make one wonder if he was the NHL’s all-time leading scorer or a hair model.
Jaromir Jagr introduced one of the best-known mullets to ever grace the ice in the 1990s. Jagr, a Czechoslovakian right-winger who played for nine NHL teams and several foreign squads, won two Stanley Cups, two World Championships, and an Olympic gold medal. He is the second leading scorer in NHL history behind only Gretzky. But for all his success on the ice, he’s known at least as well for his iconic flow. Jagr developed a strong following, but none more dedicated than the group that calls itself the Traveling Jagrs, a collection of fans who followed Jagr around the league sporting thick, black mullet wigs cascading down their necks, to the delight of the hometown crowd wherever they appeared.
So, hockey players, go with the flow. Don’t be afraid to show your hockey pride, whether it’s in season or all year long. Great hair doesn’t just happen: it takes planning, scheduling, and patience. Get started now to make sure you have great flow by the time your team hits the playoffs.
You’ve likely heard of the All Hockey Hair Team that is named from among participants in the Minnesota High School State Tournament. Hockey players in Minnesota spend up to a year growing their flow to flaunt it during the pregame introductions, which of course are held without helmets that would stifle their flow. A local man made a video montage from those introductions—an effort he has continued year to year—and in so doing created an All-Hockey Hair Team for Minnesota, or, as ESPN dubbed it, Minneflowta. The event caught on and has continued every year since 2011, gaining more traction with each new season, prompting even greater hairfforts, and garnering millions of views. The kids will even name their hair: the Mulley, the Mop, the Shabang, Straight Grease, or the Barry Melrose, for example. In case you’re wondering, Hermantown (Hairmantown), Minnesota, has produced more Hockey Hair All-Stars than any other town.
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