A clean look for a good cause
Hockey players are known for many things, not the least of which is their hair. From the days of Brett Hull and Mike Ricci to the more modern-day Scott Hartnell and Patrick Kane, it’s become common to see hair poking out from the bottom of players’ helmets. The NAHL has even paired with Gongshow Hockey to bring fans the “Flow of the Month,” awarded to the player with the league’s best ‘do. It’s becoming increasingly more likely that no member of the Texas Tornado wins the award this year, in one of the more moving displays of team solidarity you can find.
Defenseman Nick Blase hails from St. Louis, Mo. and is in his rookie season with the Tornado. He was getting ready to attend the team’s main camp in late June when he and his family received some terrible news. Nick’s 14-year-old sister, Clare, had been diagnosed with adrenocordical carcinoma, an extremely rare form of cancer. The family thought she had beaten the disease last year, but got the bad news this summer.
Adrenocordical carcinoma is caused by malignant cells forming in the outer layer of the adrenal gland, located on top of the kidneys. It typically affects only 1-2 people per million, or .0001% of the population.
“Last year, the doctors used chemotherapy to fight it. This time, we’re doing a trial. She’s receiving the kind of medication you can only get if you’re part of the trial,” Blase said. “The disease is so rare and aggressive, she’s basically a science test right now.”
Nick always had short hair, but while his sister was losing hers going through rounds of chemotherapy, he shaved it as short as he could, almost to the scalp. He played his final season of Midgets with the St. Louis AAA Blues before being drafted by the Tornado in the third round of the 2012 NAHL Entry Draft.
“I thought about growing [my hair] out this year, but decided I wanted to keep shaving my head for Clare,” Blase said. “I walked into the locker room one day with a shaved head and the guys were asking me about it. When I told them the story, it really took off and a bunch of the guys wanted to do it, too.”
Those “guys” include fellow rookies Anthony Mousseau, Chase Matson, and Brandon Hawkins, though the movement really started thanks to returning players like Jackson Leef and Justin Greenberg.
“Blazer told us the story, and my first thought was that I knew Greenie’s mom does hair, ” Leef said. “I knew we could do something like that, so we all went to his house and got it done.”
The seven players, Blase, Mousseau, Matson, Hawkins, Leef, Greenberg, and Nick Neville, all had their heads shaved at Greenberg’s house in Plano last weekend. They took a picture holding a sign saying, “WE LOVE YOU CLARE,” and sent it to her via text message.
“She loved it,” Blase said. “I can’t thank the guys enough or tell them how much it means to me and my family.”
The Shaved Seven displayed their new look on the ice Saturday night, when the team unveiled their Robertson Cup championship banner before beating the Wichita Falls Wildcats, 4-1. The Tornado are now 5-0-0 to start the young season and Blase has been in the lineup for all five games. Win or lose, he plans on keeping the look to stand in solidarity with his sister.