Whether it’s Mohawks before the football playoffs, a unified hairstyle on the volleyball court or the prospect of shaving the head of the coach, hair is one of the great motivators in sports.
So when Soldotna sophomore hockey player Timo Gleason told his teammates on Jan. 23 that if the Stars beat rival Kenai Central on Jan. 28, he would cut his hair, Gleason was reinventing the wheel.
It wasn’t until a couple of days before the game that Gleason’s mother, Janet, gave the idea a unique twist.
Janet did not want what she called her son’s “beautiful, pretty, curly hair” going to waste.
She suggested that Timo donate the hair to Locks of Love, a nonprofit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children under the age of 18 suffering from long-term medical hair loss. The organization, based in Lake Worth, Fla., has helped more than 1,000 children since it was founded in 1997.
According to the organization’s Web site, most of the applicants suffer from alopecia areata, an auto-immune condition for which there is no known cause or cure. Others have suffered severe burns or endured radiation treatment to the brain stem, in addition to other dermatological conditions that result in permanent hair loss.
Hair donated to the organization should be at least 10 inches long, but Gleason had no problem fitting that bill.
“My last, official big haircut was the end of my seventh grade,” Gleason said. “It’d been almost three years.”
Sporting what he called “straight-up ‘80s hair,” Gleason was instantly recognizable around the halls of SoHi.
Soldotna hockey coach Aaron Swanson said Gleason’s hair was so out-of-hand that he had been pushing Gleason to get it cut since the day he met him.
At least one authority figure in Gleason’s life was fine with the hair, though.
“I liked it, but I grew up in the ‘70s,” Janet Gleason said.
Timo said he was actually getting sick of the hair himself, but he didn’t let his teammates know that because he wanted to provide them as much incentive as possible to defeat the Kardinals.
“All the kids were excited about cutting his hair,” Swanson said. “They used that as motivation throughout the week of practice before we played them.”
The hard practice paid off when the Stars topped the Kardinals 3-2 in the regular season finale. Holly Perkins and Micah Perletti, two of the only people on the team with hair long enough to rival Gleason’s, played a big part in the victory. Perkins had two goals and an assist while Perletti made 23 saves.
“Walking back to the locker room, people were yelling, ‘Haircut, haircut,’” Gleason said.
The scene in the locker room was not a free-for-all for Gleason’s hair, however. First, Gleason had to wash his hair. Otherwise, Gleason noted, “That’s a pretty nasty set of hair to be sending for someone’s wig.”
Then, the hair had to be put up into ponytails and cut off. The hair measured 13 to 14 inches. Swanson finished the job by giving Gleason a buzz cut.
“I think it was a big eye-opener to everybody that I had to cut my hair,” Gleason said. “A lot of people didn’t recognize me at school.”
The Stars tried to keep riding the hair trick at the North Star Conference tournament. A first-round win over Homer on Thursday cost freshman Kevin Garske his hair, but the hair was not long enough for Locks of Love.
Perletti’s Locks of Love-worthy locks were on the line Friday against Wasilla, but the Warriors topped the Stars 4-1 to preserve Perletti’s hair and end Soldotna’s season.
“We’ll get him lined up some other time,” Swanson said.
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