EDMONTON, Alberta — Let’s check out Shawn Burr’s head. It now has three flavors. Coffee on top, vanilla in the middle, strawberry around the ears. It’s the latest. It’s the greatest. The Stanley Cup semifinals.
Red Wings hairdos.
“They came in around four o’clock Monday afternoon and asked, ‘Can you paint our hair red and white?”‘ Monique Allard, the hairdresser at the Edmonton Westin hotel, said Tuesday. “Shawn Burr was the first, but then they just kept coming, 11 or 12 of the Detroit players. We normally close at 5:30, but we stayed open until 11 o’clock. We never even got to eat dinner.”
A streak here. A streak there. Bleach. Red dye. A little dab’ll do ya. And presto! — suddenly, the Red Wings were, well, red-winged. There they stood, center ice Tuesday night in the Northlands Coliseum: Bob Probert, with a two-tone down the side of his long brown hair; Petr Klima, the colored tufts poking out from under his helmet; Burr, with the three-layer crew cut, looking like like a half-gallon of Neapolitan ice cream with eyes, nose and a mouth.
“Why’d you do it?” someone had asked him before the Wings prepared for their first game against Edmonton. “Were you trying to psych out the Oilers?”
“Nah,” he said, laughing. “Me and Chabby (John Chabot) were talking on the bus about doing something to show our spirit. We wanted to grow playoff beards, but some of us can’t grow them. So we said, ‘Hey, maybe we’ll paint the sides of our hair.’ We asked around, and a lot of guys were up for it.”
They hit the hotel.
They went downstairs to Monique.
She put their heads in the sink.
Color them spirited.
And why not? After all, the Wings, who have risen from the ashes since coach Jacques Demers arrived, are here once again, taking on perhaps the best in hockey, the Edmonton Oilers. The Final Four. Glory time. But certain pundits had this best-of-seven series done before it started.
“Wake me when it’s over,” wrote one local journalist.
“Edmonton in four,” wrote another.
In their eyes, Detroit is merely champion of the lowly Norris Division, not deserving of the same ice as Gretzky, Messier, Fuhr and the other Edmonton royalty.
To which the Red Wings say . . .
A little off the top?
“Hey, we’re here to win this time,” said interim captain Gerard Gallant before Tuesday’s game. “We’re not looking for respect, we’re looking at the Oilers as a team we have to beat to get to the Stanley Cup finals. That’s our goal this year.”
Uh . . . Gerard?
What’s that above your ear?
“Had to do it,” he said, grinning, the red and white rat- tail sneaking down his neck.
“To heck with what Edmonton thinks.”
Well. That should tell you something. Gallant is known as Mr. Conservative, a quiet team leader. So is Adam Oates, mature, well-educated.
He’s technicolor, too.
Adam Oates? Yes. Ditto for Steve Chiasson, Joey Kocur, Lee Norwood, Joe Murphy and Chabot. Gilbert Delorme passed on the colors, but wanted something done with his beard, which he has sworn not to shave until the playoffs are finished.
No problem, Gilly. Meet Monique.
His number, 29, is now mowed out in his thick black whiskers — the 2 on one cheek, the 9 on the other.
So everybody’s doing it. Or almost everybody. Certain stalwarts, like Mel Bridgman (“I got a family, eh?”) Harold Snepsts (“I’m 34, not 14”) and Steve Yzerman (“Someone has to show a little restraint, right?”) have kept things au naturel. But what is uniform beneath all this goop and bleach is a belief that there is something special here, there is unity of purpose, there is . .
. a team.
Do not overlook that. If the Red Wings thought like losers, they would never try something like this, because they’d be stuck with it for weeks after their defeat. You paint yourself at the beginning of a playoff series, you plan on strutting it like a peacock one day soon. There was a certain pride sitting under those hair dryers Monday night. And that’s nice. No matter what happens.
“Hey, it’s OK with me,” agreed Demers. “I think the boys just put a little more pressure on themselves. Now we have to play better. But they’re having fun. That’s important too. Although our first priority is to win.”
“And if you did?” he was asked. “If you made it to the Stanley Cup finals? Would you stripe yourself as well?”
“No . . . WAY!” Demers answered, laughing.
Well, what do you want? He’s the coach, for pete’s sake.
So off they go. The series has begun. Tuesday night, before the game, the Wings sat by their lockers, intense, ready, colored hair next to uncolored, bleached next to natural sheen. There is no telling what will happen this time in Edmonton, no telling how long the series will last. But there is hockey to be played, and it seems certain the Wings will be playing just as much of it as the Oilers.
Even if they are a little wet, er, red behind the ears.
CUTLINE NEW-LOOK RED WINGS LOSE OPENER TO OILERS
Detroit Red Wings Shawn Burr, Joe Murphy, Bob Probert and Steve Chiasson sport their new look Tuesday. Thirteen members of the hockey team streaked their hair to show spirit before their game against Edmonton. The Wings lost, 4-1.