CALGARY, AB -- As Jon Rheault takes off his helmet and strides over after practice, it's impossible to tell just under a month ago his now-short hair was a full-bodied mane that would have Mike Commodore jealous. He smiles as he runs his hand through the barely-there locks.
"It definitely feels pretty different."
Rheault recently had over eight inches of hair cut off to donate to create wigs for individuals who have lost their hair due to cancer treatments.
"About November last year, my hair was getting to the point where I'd either have to continue to grow it out or cut it - it was looking pretty shaggy," he laughed. "I was in Manchester and I had heard about guys donating hair for wigs for cancer patients.
"The organization I picked to do it was Pantene Beautiul Lengths. It had to be a minimum of eight inches. Most people know of Locks for Love and that's 10 inches but I found the one for eight inches and I was like 'This is more doable for me.'"
The 24 year-old winger has a personal connection to his charity of choice.
"My grandfather died of cancer," he said quietly. "I was like 'I'm going to do it. I'm going to grow my hair for this.'"
Rheault did note that while the main benefit for this quest was to aid those in need, there was an added bonus.
"It gave me an opportunity to grow my hair out which is always fun to do in hockey."
The Arlington, TX native shuffled between three clubs last year - starting in Providence then moving to Manchester before landing in Abbotsford - and his charitable nature became the topic wherever he went.
"Once it started to get really long, about the time I got to Abbotsford, it became ... I don't even know. The media was talking about it, there were fans in stands with signs. It became a little blown out of proportion but it was neat," he said modestly.
Rheault admits that while his hair did take center stage for a period of time, it had its advantages for his career.
"It's funny to be recognized for your hair when you're playing hockey but it at least got me noticed a bit out there."
It wasn't just the fans that noticed. The Heat's coaching staff noticed him as well. His short time with Abbotsford seemed to revitalize his play. In 39 games with Portland and Manchester, Rheault had just three goals and six points. In five regular season games with the Heat, he notched three goals and five points. During their playoff run, he had six tallies and eight points in 13 games.
Rheault headed into the Flames development camp in July with an air of confidence and some extremely long hair. The coaching staff may have been watching his play but they also noticed the hair.
"I came to camp and was kind of ragged on by the coaches and a few other people to get it cut," he said. "I don't think they knew exactly what I was doing with my hair at the time."
Once informed of what Rheault was doing, the staff were lenient with his appearance. But the forward knew he had a short time left to hit the eight inch mark.
"I knew when I came into training camp, I had to get it cut. I was hoping the two would align - that it would be long enough to donate and it would be on time (for camp).
"So about a week and half after development camp, I went home. It was pretty warm and humid and I was like 'Man, I've got to get this cut.' I went by a hairdresser, went in there and asked if it was long enough to donate yet and they said it was. I got it done and went into depression for a few days afterwards because I missed the hair but I'm happy I did it. It felt good to do for a good cause."
This week, at the Young Stars Tournament in Penticton, Rheault was working on his own cause. He had a four-point game against Anaheim, including a hat trick and showed some real touch around the net.