As told to: Perry LefkoI first started growing a moustache when I was about 14 because I just didn’t want to shave, and it made me look older. I had a summer job and I’d walk into the liquor store with my construction boots, dirty jeans and dirty T-shirt and get a mickey and I’d never get asked for ID. I think I was only asked for an ID twice in my life.
So I started with a simple moustache and then let it grow longer into a goatee or Fu Manchu.
One big reason I stayed with a moustache was because of the famous relief pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals and Kansas City Royals, Al (The Mad Hungarian) Hrabosky. When I played, I was very intense – a small guy running around like a pinball wizard, banging bodies, scoring goals – and Al Hrabosky circled the mound before he’d grab the bean bag and throw it down. Then he’d turn his back to the batter during his windup and throw. He had the Fu, and I’d say to myself, “I’m going to grow my moustache like that and keep it.”
I had lots of players tell me it was cool. I designed it with nice, big, thick handlebars. That was part of my makeup or who I was, so I just kept it. I was a little guy and was probably never supposed to make it in the NHL, but I played 14 years and had a great career even though I was on some pretty weak teams. But the moustache made me look like a scrappy, tough guy and it went along with the way I played. It was working out well, so I kept it.
I had lots of players tell me it was cool. I designed it with nice, big, thick handlebars. That was part of my makeup or who I was, so I just kept it.
In my first year of pro with the California Golden Seals, my teammates gave me a rookie initiation and shaved off half of the mustache. It was the day before the team photo and the other guys knew that, so that’s why they did it. If you look at the picture I look about 14 years old because there is no hair. I had to shave the whole thing off because it looked so goofy.
But then I grew it right back, no problem. It didn’t take too long. To get a really good one it took about a month, but I could grow the outline of one in about a week.
I had a beard for about two years playing in Cleveland. It was massive, probably a good three or four inches all the way around, just like you see in the playoffs. It was pretty cool. Why did I do it? So I didn’t have to shave. All I had to do was trim it and it looked pretty good. I went over to the World Championships in 1983 with this full, length beard. More guys had moustaches than beards during the regular season, but when it got to the playoffs the beard thing was a tradition.
It’s amazing that NBC Sports Chairman Mark Lazarus would make a comment recently that NHL players should not wear beards in the playoffs because it hurts their marketability. It’s a tradition, that’s basically what it is.
I shaved off my moustache a couple times after my career and my daughter said, “Dad, you don’t look like you.” About five years ago, I shaved it off completely, but I grow it in November for a month as part of “Movember” to support the idea of raising money and awareness for men’s health. But now the moustache is grey and I don’t like the look because it makes me look a lot older.
When you get older, you colour your hair. I had to do my moustache because it looked kind of weird. I had blackish, grey hair and this white Fu Manchu. When I do grow the moustache back in November, people tell me “that’s you, keep it on. That’s your whole marquee. That’s how people remember you.”
I walk around now without a Fu Manchu and I’m in good shape and wear a hat and people who don’t know me are surprised when they find out I played hockey. They say, ‘you look like you’re in a band, playing an instrument, not a hockey player.” It’s kind of cute. I kind of love it.
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