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Oilers shave their heads in support of children with life-threatening illnesses

by Ryan Dittrick / Edmonton Oilers

EDMONTON - Joined by thousands of participants, supporters and curious onlookers, Oilers players Jeff Petry, Justin Schultz, Mark Fistric, Teemu Hartikainen, Chris VandeVelde and Nail Yakupov all shed their locks Friday in support of children with life-threatening illnesses.

The Ice Palace at West Edmonton was once again the gathering place for the 11th annual Valentine's Day Hair Massacure, as a sea of pink hair and polished lids raised funds benefitting the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Stollery Children's Hospital Foundation and Ronald McDonald House.

"It's awesome," said Schultz. "You see all these little kids here and really hits you hard, so it's something that we're really proud to be a part of. I'm more than happy to do stuff like this at any time."

"It's a great cause. Everybody, in one way or another, has been affected by cancer," added Petry, who participated back in 2011 as well. "I was going to do it last year, too, but I had my wedding to have some hair for. I said I was going to do it this year and I wanted to make good on that promise."

The Hair Massacure began in 2002 as a small, family-run program in support of Tammy and Gordon MacDonald's youngest daughter, Kali. Due to an aggressive leukemia treatment in which children were dosed in adult portions, Kali lost her hair on three separate occasions as a result of a three-year chemotherapy program.

The MacDonalds' goal was to promote awareness through the act of shaving, which allowed participants to get involved at the ground level and appreciate a cancer patient's hair loss.

Bookending the makeshift salon's all-Oiler row, Yakupov and Hartikainen were calm, cool and collected throughout. The facial expressions in between, however, were highly entertaining.

"They went right down the middle and you could see your hair fall and you're like, 'Oh my God!'" said VandeVelde who, according to Petry, looks best bald.

"Vande was really concerned coming into it," he laughed. "He loves his hair. I think he can pull it off because he has a good-shaped head."

Petry wasn't planning to go all the way without a guard on the razor, but a quick glance to his right changed his mind. There sat a 22-year-old veteran of the Finnish Army, where head shavings were as compulsory as the service.

"We were all going with ones and twos until I looked over and saw Teemu going without a guard," he said. "I said I wasn't going to do it, but I couldn't let him do it alone.

"It feels a little lighter -- pretty good. It's not in my eyes anymore. The long hair was getting a little annoying. I did get a trim before, but now shaving it off feels great."

Schultz, on the other hand, was a man of focus. He game-faced it throughout and, when all was said and done, donned a look similar to that of Prison Break's Michael Scofield.

"It feels good," said Schultz. "I feel light up and there and hopefully it will make me a little faster on the ice."

Last year the Hair Massacure event raised a record-breaking $1.3 million and to date has collected more than $6 million for worthy recipients across northern Alberta.

"I think it's an awesome event," said VandeVelde. "To come here and interact with all the young kids and to get your head shaved for a good cause, it's important that the Oilers keep doing it."

Along with the six that participated on Friday, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ales Hemsky, Theo Peckham, Magnus Paajarvi, Anton Lander, Lennart Petrell and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins have all had their heads shaved in support of the Hair Massacure in recent years.

-- Ryan Dittrick, | Follow me on Twitter @ryandittrick

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