The National Hockey League, the NHL Player’s Association and Great Clips have announced a multi-year partnership this morning, that, among other benefits, makes Great Clips the official salon of the NHL. Along with this partnership, Great Clips has released a digital video series featuring San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns and Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith celebrating the history of hockey hair through the changes to their own hair over the years.
This partnership builds on the LegendHairy Greats of the NHL playoffs voting campaign held last year to find the best hair of the NHL playoffs. In its second year, Brent Burns is nominated again, along with Nashville Predators defenseman Roman Josi, Toronto Maple Leafs forward William Nylander, Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos, Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba and Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Justin Faulk.
Fear the Fin spoke with Brent Burns ahead of the launch to talk playoffs, NHL Awards and, of course, hockey hair.
Editor’s Note: This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Fear the Fin: First of all, congrats on your season! It’s not just you, but multiple players on the Sharks are having career years. What does that say about the culture in San Jose and what you’ve been able to accomplish?
Brent Burns: Every year is obviously so different. I think this year we had a lot of guys take steps and play really well. I think having Karl come in, that was huge for us. Timo, Jumbo was awesome for us all year, Hertl took huge steps, and when you have guys like that take big steps, it helps everybody else out too. Sorensen playing with Jumbo and Bancer, that line was really, really good and just gave us really good depth. I think that helps out everybody and helped our team throughout the year. I think we had a bit of a tough March, but I think we battled through a lot of stuff all year. That’s hockey, it’s a lot of up and down.
Yeah, another great year. They’re all nuts.
FTF: Speaking of your March — that’s kind of the conversation now, how much does the end of the season carry into playoffs. How are you guys feeling going into this series?
BB: I don’t know if it carries on so much, per se. The year is such a long grind and 82 games is just so difficult to get through and you’re not gonna play well the whole year. I mean that’s just not gonna happen. Every team goes through it. I think for a couple months there, we were right near the top of the league, if not the top of the league, for playing well.
We had that little dip near the end there and were struggling — I think there’s a lot of things that go through that. You just have that long grind that’s coming to a halt and you start looking toward the playoffs and start looking forward to getting that going. You don’t want that to happen, but I think it’s pretty natural. We were dealing with some stuff, some injury stuff — and that’s never an excuse, every team deals with it. But like I said before, every team is kinda dealing with as they close the year and that’s just kinda what happens.
Once the season’s over, you get a couple days, you reset, and it’s over. You bounce back, you start looking forward to the new season, the playoffs starting. You’re looking at one team and trying to figure out how to beat a great team. For us, it’s Vegas. We know it’s a tough challenge. You just forget about everything else that’s happened. You start over. It’s a totally different feeling, it’s a totally different game, so it doesn’t really matter what’s happened, whether you were playing really, really well or not playing well.
FTF: Getting to you specifically, you’re in Norris Trophy talks again, having hit an 80-plus points season in your 30s. Has anything changed about your game this season, or has there been a new defensive structure that’s really allowed you to succeed this year?
BB: Like I said before, I think a lot of it is just [that] we had a good team. That makes a huge difference for a lot of us. We just came together. We played well, we had a strong group. When you have a good team, everybody does better.
Every year is different — the way we play, the way you’re getting chances — there’s a lot of things that were different than years previously. You try to figure out those ways and how it’s changing and how the game itself is changing and try to stay with it. You have to, or you won’t be there for much longer.
Just as you get older, you’re always trying to figure out better ways to stay in shape, to stay ready, to stay at the top of the game and play your best ... just stay as good as you can, for as long as you can.
FTF: A couple weeks ago, Drew Doughty had some words about how we evaluate defenders. But you’ve played on a D-corps with Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who doesn’t really get recognized for his defensive play. Do you have any thoughts on how we evaluate defenders for these end of the season awards and what could maybe be different?
BB: I don’t really have any thoughts on [that]. For me, it doesn’t really matter. To be honest, I really don’t. I can’t control it, so I try not to think about it.
He has his opinion on whatever he was saying or thinking. For me, I watch a lot of hockey. I try to watch a lot of different guys and try to emulate a lot of guys, to pick up little things from these guys. I’m a fan of hockey, I’m a fan of a lot of these players — even Drew’s got game. I try to watch him to see what he does in certain situations, try to bring that to my game, to make myself better.
FTF: Another award you’re up for is this Great Clips LegendHairy Award —
BB: Now that’s the important one! (Laughs)
FTF: You’re known for your beard, but you’ve rocked some pretty great hairstyles. The messy bun, the French braid ... I have to ask: Do you do the French braid yourself, or do you get some help?
BB: No, I definitely get some help with it. I can’t do it, I don’t know how. Even my daughter, I watch her braid her hair and I’m like “How do you do that?” It’s incredible. Now she tries to braid my hair. But for the games, my wife does mine. She always does my French braid. If we’re on the road, one of our PR girls, Joanna, she does the braid for me on the road.
I get a lot of questions about if I’m doing it myself, but no, I’m pretty useless. I don’t know how to do it.
FTF: There are some good heads of hair in that Sharks locker room.
BB: Yeah, they call it San Flow-se, huh? (Laughs)
FTF: Who do you think has the best hair — obviously, next to you?
Oh, Karlsson’s got great hair, got good hockey flow. Actually, I think Marcus Sorensen, he’s pretty underrated. He doesn’t get the credit he deserves for having that flow that he’s got. Brenden Dillon’s got a great head of hair. Obviously Jumbo, Jumbo’s got the 1950s racing stripe down his beard, the nice curly locks coming in. He’s tried to keep it a little tighter right now, but with the beard and hair combo he’s got, it’s pretty nice.
FTF: Is there anyone you’re nudging with this partnership, like “Hey, you could step it up a little bit”?
BB: I wouldn’t say they need to step it up, but as a team, we’re a little bit worried about Justin Braun’s hair. We see it slowly fading away and disappearing. We worry about Brauny a little bit. As a team, we’ve had some talks to try to get him some good products, try to get him to take care of that hair before it’s gone forever.
FTF: The Sharks have had some fun with hairstyles. You and Jumbo had your “lifestyle beards,” and then the mohawks for playoffs — do you have any plans for playoffs this year to do anything as a team with your hair?
BB: I haven’t heard anything yet! Usually these things happen kind of organically and they just kind of take off on a life of its own. I haven’t heard anything for this year. Maybe we have to start trying to figure something out.
FTF: So you’re nominated in this hair campaign with Roman Josi, William Nylander, Steven Stamkos, Matt Dumba and Justin Faulk. What do you think of their hair and what makes yours different?
BB: They all have great hair. All clean cut, you know, fancy hair. I think the big difference would be mine — I just kinda comb mine with a pork chop, just kinda let it flow wherever it goes. It just does whatever it wants to do. I think most of these other guys have got a pretty clean-cut look and look all nice and fancy.
Stammer let his grow a little bit, right? And Faulker, too, Justin Faulk, he still has the long hair? I think he’s got the longer hair and kind of the clean-cut beard, he’s got like, the thing that goes around the mouth. Josi’s pretty clean-cut. William Nylander’s clean-cut. Matty Dumba, I don’t even know what hairstyle he’s got.
FTF: He’s got short-cropped hair, like a buzzcut.
BB: Yeah, he does, right? I think mine’s pretty different than that look. A lot of these guys, they look clean-cut, professional.
That’s what’s great about hockey and hockey hair. Through the times, and through all the different teams, everybody’s got their own look. Adds a lot of individuality, gives kids a lot of different looks they can try to emulate or try to take after. I’ve always been a big fan of the Minnesota state tournament ... their intro, I think it’s awesome. There’s just such a great history of hockey hair and beards. It’s just great to be a part of it.
FTF: Was there anyone, when you were younger, whose hockey hair you tried to emulate?
BB: Back in the day, it was like, you know, growing up, you always looked forward to the playoff beards and the long hair. Just hockey hair, in general. I talked about, when I was with Great Clips, when I was a kid, going through the long-haired stage, the bowl cut, trying to get the hockey wing sticking out of the ear of your helmet. Then I kinda went through the shaved head phase. And then the dyed blonde hair.
You always had these different things and it was all kinda through the hockey environment. It was just such a good thing. It’s a fun thing to do together as a team. You always have fun with it. I love that part about hockey.
FTF: Looking at all of hockey history, who do you think has the most iconic hockey hair?
BB: I’m gonna screw that up, for sure, because I’m just thinking of some of my favorite guys. Like Mats Sundin, I would watch him a lot. Dougie Gilmour. Wayne Gretzky. You always see them kinda having the flow. Mike Modano. You always hear about Modano, when he’s skating really fast, his hair was kinda blowing and his jersey was blowing in the wind and that’s when you knew you had to panic and start getting back toward your net.
There’s been such a history of it, and growing the beards. Even guys that can’t do it, it’s almost just as good. But it never really mattered if you had hockey hair or not, it’s the whole thing of doing it together, bringing your team together, bringing that whole special energy about the playoffs together. Hockey hair has a lot to do with it.
FTF: I have one last question: Is the mullet ever coming back?
BB: I hope so. I hope so. I said this to Great Clips, that’s my favorite one.
I don’t know if others want the mullet to come back, but the hockey guys want the mullet to come back.
To vote for Brent Burns in the Legendhairy Greats campaign presented by Great Clips, visit Nhl.com/HockeyHair. For more information on the Great Clips partnership with the NHL, you can find the full release here.