Rivalries run deep, but one of the best in the AHL is...
Cody Eakin and Other NHL Redheads
Turns out gingers are hockey studs. Photo by Alena Schwartz
Few appreciate the subtle beauty of fire-engine locks flowing in the breeze against translucent skin, illuminated by red lights against a background of red jerseys, a blue helmet, and another red jersey. Fortunately the Washington Capitals do and had rookie Cody Eakin (pictured) waiting in the wings.
After an electrifying debut against the Ducks, he delivered on many expectations Friday night. Eakin got his first goal and point in the game, and was awarded the first star against Carolina to help the Caps to a 5-1 victory. But his work does not end there.
While the league actively promotes the use of the color red, (Detroit, Chicago, New Jersey, Montreal, Calgary, Ottawa, Phoenix, Carolina, Colorado-ish), little is done to promote the presence of the ginger race.
Eakin’s debut makes him one of the few gingers in the NHL, and if his first two games are more than a fluke, he will join an elite club of men with…various talents.
Here is a list of most current members of the NHLGA (National Hockey League Ginger’s Association):
The Innocent: Tomas Fleischmann
Fleischmann served a little less than five seasons as a Washington redhead, and his service to the Capitals current success has guaranteed him a spot in many fans’ hearts; he received a standing ovation during last season’s game five elimination of the New York Rangers.
The 2009-10 season that saw the Caps win the President’s Trophy and Fleischmann score 51 points (23g, 28a) solidified the Czech as an offensive commodity. Wherever he goes, Fleischmann is sure to become a fan favorite given his abilities and instant likability.
The Muscle: Cody McLeod
To those outside of the Western Conference, the name may not get reaction, but in Colorado, McLeod has made it with his grit. Last year, his 189 PIMs were the fourth-most league wide. That number, boosted by 15 majors, was the most for the team, while David Koci came in second with 80 PIMs.
McLeod has proven himself to be the toughest ginger on the list, though he has some competition. He also has the fiery temper and Irish name, which makes him adorable in a nightmarish way.
The Personality: Mike Commodore
According to Hockeyfights.com, Commodore has never fought McLeod, but given his current status on the Red Wings’ roster, that could soon change (not that I condone ginger-on-ginger violence). Commodore has less of a reputation as a fighter, but he’s not afraid to drop the gloves.
Currently, Commodore may be known more as the NHLGA spokesperson, having taken to his Twitter account with only slightly less passion than Paul Bissonnette. His full recovery from a knee injury from the preseason will probably mean less tweeting but more ginger ice time.
The Businessman: Brian Campbell
Campbell is by far the best paid redhead on the list (the Sedins signed for less years, but Campbell is guaranteed only $885,625 less total than the twins combined, with current contract lengths). The Cup hangover got the best of the Blackhawks and Campbell last year, as his mediocre output ultimately lead to his trade to the Panthers.
The defenseman appears to be rebounding well in Florida, with 12 points in 13 games, and a decent team around him.
Campbell has not only the money to fund, anything really, he also has the charisma needed to be a great entrepreneur. He’s a great singer, actor, and party animal.
The Talent: The Sedins
Sure, twins have a long history of creepiness, but the Sedins have managed to turn that into a gift that never hits. Besides being ginger, they have telepathic powers that are pure magic on the ice. It’s no small feat that a pair of twins from Sweden managed to be elite players that ended up playing on the same great team.
If you happen to have a preference between goals and assists, you probably have a favorite twin, but to most the two are a set package.
Random fact: Henrik has played 23 more games than Daniel, having only missed 10 in 11 years.
Also weird: Henrik has 15 more career points (684) than Daniel (669). They have each played 15 games this season, and both have 18 points. Daniel has one extra goal (6g, 12a), Henrik has one extra assist (5g, 13a).
The Looks: Alexander Sulzer
Compared to his peers, Sulzer is pretty average. Drafted 92nd overall in 2003 by Nashville, Sulzer was traded to Florida after 31 games last year. The Canucks signed him over the summer on a two-way contract, and so far Sulzer has stayed on the better side of it.
As shown by the last move, Sulzer has the potential to be a solid NHL defenseman. After all the time spent in “non-traditional” markets, Sulzer might have some difficulty adjusting to the hockey mental case that is Vancouver.
The Double Agent: Raffi Torres
It took some time for Torres to come to terms with his hair, and as rebels tend to do, young Raffi went in the complete awful direction. Since going to the Canucks last year, Torres has appeared to be accepting of his ginger status, allowing both his goatee and some stubbles on his head to grow out.
Torres’ Mexican-Peruvian heritage gives him a skin tone somewhat darker than the typical redhead, making him what Matt Stone and Trey Parker would call a “daywalker.” He’s slipped through six organizations without really being called out for his hair status, but is now with a team where the uniform will definitely bring out his true colors. Too bad no one will be there to see it.
The Sage: Michal Handzus
Michal Handzus is technically the oldest of the bunch, though not by much. At 34, Handzus appears to be in the twilight of his career, though he’s still good enough to be a solid third-line center. His years of experience make him a veteran asset for teams around the league and a source of wisdom for gingers around the world.
Time has made Handzus one of the more reliable players in the league, having missed only one game in the last four years of his 12-year career. It seems the carefree attitude that came with the long locks of the past has been disciplined, though he really should’ve kept the hair.
The Mascot?: Scott Hartnell
Unfortunately, time may be doing the same thing to Hartnell, whose signature for so many years has been his Carrot-top locks. The 29-year-old winger cut most of his hair off last October for “Locks of Love” and is growing it back now, but is unsure about what will happen in the future.
The hair-jersey dynamic of Hartnell as a Flyer probably makes fashionistas cringe, but he’s a hockey player, who cares? If anything, it breaks the boundaries of what gingers around the world can wear. (A redheaded friend once told me her mother would never let her wear red because it clashed with her hair.)
So when Ginger History Month comes around, let your favorite ginger player know you appreciate them. We don’t want to make them mad.