by Samantha Poulos | AHL On The Beat Archive
The month of November carries a great deal of importance for the San Antonio Rampage. With nine of 11 games being played at home and nine games against West Division opponents, the Silver and Black are aiming to take advantage of an opportunity to get ahead in the standings early.
But it’s what the team is doing off the ice that might carry an even greater weight, as the team takes part in a full-fledged Movember campaign.
A popular cause in the hockey community, Movember is a month-long movement to raise awareness for men’s health issues, particularly prostate and testicular cancer and mental health problems. Men forego their usual grooming techniques to grow a mustache and spark conversation and raise funds for the Movember Foundation, the leading global organization committed to changing the face of men’s health.
“There’s really no one in the world that hasn’t been affected by cancer in one way or form,” said Olson. “It’s good to see people bond around it and nice to see all the participation.”
“I think the Movember campaign means more due to my personal connection [with cancer],” added Wilson.
Wilson’s grandfather passed in the middle of a road trip for the Rampage last November.
“Losing my grandpa last year was definitely tough, and it was really hard with him passing in the middle of the season,” he said. “He was a huge part of my hockey career. He loved coming to watch me play and used to make the four and five-hour drive to come and see me play. He was probably one of my biggest fans and I know he’s proud of me. He played a big part.”
Olson was only 13 when his grandfather passed from lung cancer. It was the first time anyone in his family had been affected by the disease.
“It was something I had to try and deal with emotionally even though I was playing youth hockey when it happened,” he said. “My grandparents were always my biggest fans.”
“Anything to do with cancer reminds me of my grandfather,” added Shaw, who lost his grandfather in the summer of 2010. “It’s tough to think about, but he was actually the first one that taught me how to skate. When I was young, he would take me down to the rink and I would push a chair around. He used to put on goalie gear in the basement as I was shooting around as a kid.”
The Rampage captain, Zanon, was still young when his grandfather passed away, but he left a lasting impact on his hockey career.
“For every goal I would get a dollar, or a loonie in Canada, from my grandfather and he would come out to see me play wherever he could,” he recalled. “He spent a lot of time in the hospital but when he was able to, he was always there for us. “
The Rampage have taken a slightly different approach to this year’s Movember campaign, dividing the team into three groups – captained by forwards Steven Hodges, Connor Brickley, and Tony Turgeon – competing to raise the most money for the Movember Foundation. Fans were invited to get involved in the action and join one of the teams as well.
“Giving back to men’s cancer research is the main goal,” Olson said. “It’s nice to grow the mustache, but the main part is going and donating.”
“It’s important to give back,” Zanon added. “I’ve been very fortunate in my life. I have a great family, I’ve been brought up really well, and any chance that I can give back to help other people and help the cause is important to me and my family.”
For much of the team, Movember is nothing new, as they have participated in this worthy cause while they played in college, juniors or with other AHL and NHL teams. Olson participated in Movember with the Abbotsford Heat last season, and Connor Brickley
was part of the effort at the University of Vermont.
“You sure do get second looks but it’s for a great cause and it’s fun,” Brickley said.
The upper lip accessories provide for some comedic fodder throughout the month, as some mustaches have come in better than others.
“Olson has a little creepy one going on,” joked Shaw.
“Mine will be a little better than Shaw’s,” added Wilson. “I don’t know how much hair he can actually grow on there.”
“I don’t think Joe Basaraba
stands a very good chance but maybe Hodges or some of the younger guys,” said Olson. “I think they’re a little worried it’ll blow off into the wind or in the shower.”
At the midway point of the month, the Rampage had raised more than $1,000 for the Movember Foundation. Fans can visit sarampage.com/Movember
for information on how to join the effort and how to donate to their favorite player or team. While the campaign ends on Dec. 1, some of the mustaches could live on.
“It depends on how I am playing,” Olson said. “I may get a little superstitious so if things are going well, I might keep it a little longer.”