By Ruben Dominguez – Thunder staff writer
The Stockton Thunder is going through a growth spurt.
Several individual hairs have made a home on the upper lips of Thunder players and coaches, forming what is commonly known as a “mustache”. It’s found a home in the Thunder locker room. Few upper lips have been spared.
Welcome to “Movember.” It began in 2003 by a group of 30 men growing mustaches in Melbourne, Australia. Movember is a worldwide movement that raises awareness of several male-related medical illnesses, such as prostate and testicular cancer.
For the duration of the month of Movember, formerly known as “November,” men around the world are encouraged to grow their mustaches, or “Mo’s,” as a sign for the cause.
Movember has roots in the NHL, AHL, ECHL and several leagues across the globe. Thunder players, coaches and staff are participating in the effort once again. Last season, the Thunder helped raised $2,825 for the cause.
“It’s a great cause,” Thunder head coach Matt Thomas said. “It’s a great initiative to support ourselves and our fathers and the men that are faced with different types of cancers, especially prostate cancer. For us, it’s a great thing to get into and a fun thing for the guys to have a contest. We have guys with some pretty pathetic mustaches and some guys with pretty awesome ones.”
“It’s something cool and a good way to show how much we care and to support the fight against prostate cancer,” said Hunt. “It’s something us guys playing hockey can do to contribute and show our respect and support.
“Many people around the world have been directly affected by these illnesses. Reber’s personal connection to the month involves a friend, whom Reber grew up and played hockey with since grade school.
“I have a friend who was directly affected by this in high school,” said Reber. “He was diagnosed with testicular cancer when we were juniors in high school. He’s okay now, but at such a young age that’s not something you really expect. You don’t see it coming and you can’t prepare at all. It’s great that he’s healthy now and I’m grateful that I can help in any way possible.”
“I just do it to support the cause, but when you see someone who has been affected by these sorts of men’s health issues it touches you to know that you can make a difference,” said Reber.
These “Mo Bros” are not alone in their cause. “Mo Sistas” – women who support Movember – can also get involved at the Movember website – www.Movember.com – by supporting their Mo Bro or helping to raise awareness of the cause.
Forward Yannick Riendeau has taken his mustache a step further, sporting an excellent Fu Manchu that rivals those of Michael Phelps and Joe Flacco.
“I think Chuck Norris has a pretty recognizable mustache,” Reber said.
“But I’ve tried to add my own touch to it. It’s a throwback, something from the 70’s or 80’s. Retro is in right now, so I think it looks pretty good.”
“People at the gym call me ‘Mario,’ from Super Mario Brothers,” Thomas said, “If I got a little outfit like his I probably would be able to pull it off. Guys can’t take me seriously with it.”
As to the all-important question of which member of the Thunder sports the best ‘stache:
“Not to pump my own tires,” said Reber, “but I think it’d probably be me. Yannick’s is pretty good. [Harrison] Reed’s is pretty good.”
“By far [Matt] Bergland’s is the best mustache on the team,” said Hunt. “He looks hilarious. Reber’s is good. He’s had that for a couple of years. He hasn’t shaved it since birth; he just shaves his face and leaves the mustache. [Nathan] Deck can’t grow anything but a mustache.”
“Reber is definitely in the lead,” said Thomas. “The scary thing is that he can kind of pull it off. It’s almost becoming a part of his regular look, which is nice. “Deck has impressed me. Last year was pretty depressing for him. This year, he’s turning into somewhat of a man with his mustache.”
For more information about Movember, as well as how to support and donate, visit the official Movember website at www.movember.com. While there, check out the pages of several Thunder members, including Thomas, Deck, and recent Oklahoma City call-up Cameron Abney.
The Thunder returns to play on Friday against Bakersfield, starting at 7:30 p.m. (1280 KWSX/StocktonThunder.com) at Stockton Arena.