The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

April 14, 2009

Dumping the razor to support cancer research

BY CHIP MINEMYER

Put down that razor. The Stanley Cup playoffs are here.

Each year during the National Hockey League’s playoffs, professional players – already something of a grizzled bunch – refrain from shaving until their teams are eliminated from contention or win the Stanley Cup.

You may recall that by the time the Detroit Red Wings had topped the Pittsburgh Penguins in last season’s Stanley Cup finals, players on both benches were looking pretty scraggly.

This year, that superstition has a new twist.

You can play along, and even help a worthy cause.

And – yep, you guessed it – that’s exactly what this once-sane newspaper editor will be doing.

The NHL’s “Beard-a-thon” promotion allows hockey fans to sprout whiskers right along with the players and other team personnel. Those who take part in conjunction with the Penguins can help raise money for the Mario Lemieux Foundation, which supports cancer research.

I’m signed up and ready to go at www.beardathon.com. You can go there now and pledge your support for the Lemieux Foundation, and do it in my name if you want.

You could even join the hairy hockey parade yourself and sign up. You can post your photograph and let people rate your beard against those grown by the likes of Penguins Maxime Talbot and Pascal Dupuis – or me!

(This promotion appears to be pegged to men. But if ladies wanted to let their legs sprout for a few weeks, and raise money to fight cancer, I say go for it!)

Here in the heart of deer-hunting country, it’s quite common to see guys grow facial hair in late November, pledging to leave the whiskers in place until fresh venison is at the butcher shop.

Although I’ve hunted much of my life, I never made such a commitment. And since my bucks were few and far between, you could understand why.

That’s not to say I don’t grow a beard from time to time. Generally it happens because I go on vacation and don’t bother shaving, and after a week I figure that I might as well let it keep on growing.

But this is different. Even if it gets itchy and uncomfortable, this beard will feel good because every penny I can raise – assuming I raise a few – will go to cancer research.

The Mario Lemieux Foundation was started in 1993 by the great Penguins player when he was battling Hodgkin’s disease.

Lemieux, now the team owner, is fortunately cancer-free. But he still devotes much of his time and energy to growing the foundation to support its programs.

The foundation has donated $5 million to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, which used the money to establish the Mario Lemieux Centers for Patient Care and Research. A gift of $2 million helped develop the Lemieux Family Center at the Children’s Home of Pittsburgh, and a donation of $1.6 million to the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh supports pediatric oncology research and other efforts.

Lemieux’s skill was unequaled when he was a player. Now, he is also among the greats in relation to raising money to fight a dreaded disease.

You’ll be able to follow my facial-hair progress – as well as the money we’ll be raising together – throughout the Stanley Cup playoffs on this page and at www.tribdem.com.

And you can click on Beard-athon.com and type in my name to see how I’m doing.

Why not come along for the ride and make a donation to the Mario Lemieux Foundation?

And let’s hope for a deep playoff run for the Penguins – beginning with a win tonight against the hated Philadelphia Flyers.



Chip Minemyer is the editor of The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 532-5091.