April 1, 2010
MADISON, Wis. – Mustaches are commonly worn as part of a costume or a disguise. However, the Wisconsin men’s hockey team has nothing to hide from, and there is no reason for the Badgers to pretend to be anyone else. So why have they all grown mustaches?
The team has a 27-10-4 overall record with a red hot 70.7 winning percentage and the nation’s leading scorer among defensemen. Add in the country’s top power-play goal scorer, one of the nation’s best goaltenders, the second-ranked scoring offense in the nation, a Hobey Baker Hat Trick finalist, and a three-game winning streak, and what hockey team wouldn’t want to be Wisconsin?
Oh yeah, and the Badgers are in the midst of a thrilling postseason run. Wisconsin will make the 11th NCAA Frozen Four appearance in program history next week when the team takes on RIT. The Badgers are in the hunt for the program’s seventh NCAA title.
Despite a highly successful regular season, the Badgers decided they wanted to try something different heading into this year’s postseason.
Enter the mustaches.
“It’s a part of hockey tradition to grow playoff beards,” junior goaltender Scott Gudmandson said. “My first couple years here, we did the beards and it didn’t really work out. We thought we’d change it up and do something a little different, see if mustaches would be lucky this year.”
“Every other year we’ve gone with the beard and we haven’t really done too well with it,” senior forward Ben Grotting agreed. “Playoffs come around and you’ve been doing the same thing all year. You want to do something different, something as a team, so that’s where it all stems from.”
While growing beards is a part of hockey tradition, mustaches are a little different. Still, none of the Badgers hesitated to join their teammates in growing a ’stache for the playoffs.
“Everybody hopped right on board to do it as a team thing, do a little team bonding as we headed into the playoffs,” Gudmandson said.
“It was kind of a collective idea,” Grotting explained. “We did a team vote on whether to do beards or mustaches. It was a unanimous vote in favor of mustaches.”
Although the team came up with the idea as a group, one Badger was slightly ahead of the rest in mustache-growing.
“Before the playoffs started, I actually already had a mustache,” senior forward John Mitchell said. “I think it was the Michigan Tech series when I had it, so a week or two before the playoffs actually started. My mustache was a superstitious thing.”
Whether the team mustaches were inspired by Mitchell’s facial hair or by playoff excitement, no one knows. However, one thing for sure is that the Badgers are all about having a little fun during their exciting postseason run, and they welcome their fans to join in.
“It’s fun to see the crowd get into it,” junior forward Patrick Johnson said. “I know Coach Patrick’s kids actually drew on mustaches just like ours, and it’s cool that they are going along with our team. It’s not just us out there, it’s the fans that come and help us out, too. Obviously they bring us a lot of excitement, so it’s fun to see them doing it, too.”
However, not everyone is so accepting of the mustaches.
“People have told me I look creepy,” Grotting admitted, laughing. “My girlfriend won’t kiss me anymore. I think her exact words were, ‘You are single,’ but I think everyone actually thinks it’s funny.”
The Badgers realize that their mustaches do look a little silly – some more than others.
“It looks funny, but it’s a fun thing to do as a team,” Johnson said.
The verdict is still out on which players have the best and worst mustaches, but the team agrees that the criteria for judging mustache quality is definitely thickness, darkness, and length.
Even though the Badgers are not using their mustaches as disguises or costumes, that did not stop a couple players from taking advantage of a recent photo opportunity.
“Patrick Johnson and I went out to Keegan Meuer’s house the other day, and Keegan’s family has a couple Harleys,” Gudmandson said. “Patty and I decided we’d throw on the leather jackets and go out and pose for a couple pictures. I thought it was pretty funny.”
If the success the mustaches have brought the team so far is any indication of what it to come, the Badgers can plan on plenty more photo opportunities with their mustaches – and hopefully an NCAA Championship trophy.
Here are the team’s best and worst mustaches according to Ben Grotting, Patrick Johnson, John Mitchell, Scott Gudmandson and Andy Bohmbach:
First Annual Badger Mustache Awards
Grotting: Myself. Patrick Johnson’s is pretty good. He has the whole fu manchu going on. For the smallest, wimpiest guy on the team, that might be a little surprising to some people.
Johnson: Everybody says mine is the best, but I don’t know if it is. I’d say either Podge Turnbull or Scott Gudmandson. They both have pretty good ones.
Mitchell: I think Ben Street has a pretty good one. Patrick Johnson has a good fu manchu, and Podge Turnbull has a good one, too. Those are the top three.
Gudmandson: Patrick Johnson. I like to see a mustache that is full. It’s dark. I know a few of the guys have a little bit of blonde ones. Jordy Murray has a little bit of red in his. I like the full mustache. I think Johnson has some great handlebars on his.
Bohmbach: Scott Gudmandson and Ben Grotting probably have the best ones.
Grotting: The worst would probably be Jordy Murray. He really can’t grow much. He has a little stubble. Andy Bohmbach can’t grow one either.
Johnson: Derek Stepan. He has a little bit, but not much.
Gudmandson: Andy Bohmbach.
Bohmbach: Derek Lee’s is the worst.