The unruly red mop of hair, it seems, keeps getting thicker and taller with each passing day.
Must be just about playoff time, then, for Ottawa Senators defenceman Mike Commodore.
It was four years ago, you might recall, that the big blueliner’s unkempt mane became all the rage during the Calgary Flames’ unexpected run to the Stanley Cup final. Then it was more of the same two years later, when Commodore sipped from Lord Stanley’s hallowed chalice as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes.
So it was a safe bet that Commodore, who was dealt to the Senators on Feb. 11 along with veteran forward Cory Stillman, would quickly declare that no pair of scisssors would go near his “au naturel” locks until after season’s end in the nation’s capital.
“It’s been a part of me every year of my career, so there won’t be any haircuts here in Ottawa,” said Commodore, who guesses the last time he had one done was a few days before the Hurricanes opened training camp in September.
But hair aside, there’s a more basic reason Senators head coach/general manager Bryan Murray decided to add Commodore to his blue-line brigade in the deal that saw defenceman Joe Corvo and forward Patrick Eaves head south to Raleigh, N.C.
“I like his size, his grit, his determination,” said Murray when asked what he’s hoping Commodore can bring to the Senators’ mix. “He’s a great guy in the room and a great competitor. I’d like his puck skills to improve a little bit, but he’s a real good competitive guy.”
Commodore notched an assist against the Toronto Maple Leafs last Saturday, his first point in 19 games as a Senator, and added a second one Monday night in Montreal. But he admits lighting the lamp isn’t his specialty.
“My game is defence first,” he said. “I take the body and try to make things difficult for the opposing team in the defensive end. Anything after that is a bonus.”
That rugged style helped the Hurricanes reach the pinnacle of hockey in a season Commodore still looks upon with great fondness.
“I had a great time in Carolina, without a doubt,” he said. “I have some special memories there. I liked the guys and I had a great time.”
It’s a sentiment, no doubt, that made the Senators’ trip to Raleigh a few weekends back – Commodore’s first game against his former team – an emotional one for him.
“It was actually pretty tough,” he said. “It was pretty emotional. The building was rocking. I didn’t know what to expect. It was pretty weird playing against, other than a couple of the guys, (a group of players) you just finished playing with 10-15 games ago.
“It was definitely a different experience. But it would have been nice if was 5-1 the other way.”
Commodore bleeds Senators red now, though, and already a few red wigs have been spotted in the stands as Ottawa fans begin to salute their new folk hero. Undoubtedly, there will be more of the same if he’s part of another long post-season run.
Even today, Commodore shakes his head when he ponders the fan reaction to something about which, he says, “there’s no work put into this.”
“I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for that, to be honest with you,” Commodore said about his hair-raising tale in Calgary. “It was just an innocent thing that I did that year. I had done it in college and the students really liked it when I went to the University of North Dakota. So I knew I had a little something there.
“That year with the Flames… I just did it more out of laziness than anything else, and I just kept it going and we had that playoff run. Everything happened so fast that year and the next thing I know, people are wearing it in the stands and it was all over The Hockey News. It really blew up in my face.”
In both Calgary and Raleigh, Commodore turned that little bit of fame into a helping hand, holding hair-cutting fundraisers for cancer research in both cities after his season ended – something he’d like to repeat in Ottawa sometime this June, no doubt.
“You know what, it was fun for the fans,” he said. “And, at the end of the day, in terms of (helping) a good cause, too.”