Every once and a while, the game of professional hockey is more than just speed, skill and physicality on ice. The hockey community has long been known as a community of competitive but caring people, willing to take the popularity of the game and use it to bring awareness to causes much bigger and more important.
There is Sidney Crosby’s Little Penguins Learn to Play Hockey program that donates 1,000 sets of hockey equipment every year to kids who can’t afford them. There is Jarome Iginla, who donates $2,000 for every goal he scores to KidSport to the tune of over $1 million since the year 2000. Of course, in what is the biggest donation by a Canadian athlete in history, there is P.K. Subban, who has pledged to donate $10 million to Montreal’s Children’s Hospital. There are so many more players like this that it’s difficult to name them all.
Eric Gryba Gets in on the Giving
Recently, one of the Edmonton Oilers own has become the latest in working to enrich others. Defenseman Eric Gryba took to Facebook, where he’d posted a video calling for video likes. If the total likes reached over 5,000, he would shave his long-time beard and donate $5,000 to Garth Brooks’ Teammates for Kids Foundation. Not only did the video hit 5,000 likes, but it exceeded 25,000 and has been viewed over half a million times.
As a result, not only did Gryba shave his beard, but country music stars Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood caught wind of what was happening just prior to their arrival in the city of Edmonton for nine sold-out concerts. In the spirit of helping out, Garth donated $5,000 and offered to shave his beard. Trisha donated $10,000 to the charity and for Garth not to have to shave his. The Edmonton Oilers Foundation kicked in a bit more and within days, the total reached $22,500.
Power of the Beard
Not only was a good deed done by a very compassionate player, but the good karma rubbed off on the Oilers in their game on Thursday. As the Oilers took on the Philadelphia Flyers, Gryba was in the lineup as a member of the Oilers for the first time without a beard. Edmonton busted the scoring gates wide open in a 6-3 Oilers’ victory. Gryba had an assist, played physical and was given the third star of the game honors.
In a post-game media scrum, jokingly, Gryba made it quickly known that he didn’t want people thinking his success and physicality in the NHL was due only to his beard. His scoring prowess — a skill he’s not often known for — was in no way thanks to the now missing facial hair.
Can the Beard Trigger More Offense?
The Oilers are now riding two consecutive wins and have scored 11 goals in two games. Obviously, the two happenings are a coincidence; but, imagine what could happen if the team employed a player like Brent Burns or Joe Thornton.
Gryba now has four points in 28 games for the Oilers, been a great teammate and advocate in the community. While he’d love the opportunity to keep things going, he may have to go back to watching from the sidelines on the next Oilers road trip as both Darnell Nurse and Kris Russell are expected back from injuries and almost ready to play a more prominent role.
Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”