WHITHER THE MULLET

Rocky Racoon himself never wore it so well. Getty Images

[Ed's Note: Our NHL Preview is up. It's extensive. Here, we needed to hit on style.]

Where have all the mullets gone?

Once worn by such hockey stars as Wayne Gretzky, Jaromir Jagr and Mario Lemieux, the "business up front, party in the back" hair-do has been reduced to a seemingly lone representation on new Tampa Bay Lighting head coach Barry Melrose.

(Though he wears it darn well.)

The near extinction of the mullet in hockey appears to have something to do with perception. The evolution of hair fashion has passed it by. Chicago Blackhawks right wing Adam Burish admits to sporting the look as a child. "I thought it was really cool. I had the steps on the sides and the long in the back," says Burish.

Now an adult, Burish's opinion on the mullet has changed. "I think it's too dated. It's trashy. I think you look like a little bit of a bum."

Hair stylist Becky Lerner, of the Windy City salon chain Halo For Men, tends to agree. "I think if you have that haircut, you've got to know the stereotypes that go along with that. In my mind stereotypes exist for a reason," says Lerner.

She has had one client actually request the mullet. He also claimed to be a professional hockey player from Canada. "He was like 'I need to keep the back long.' I was like 'You're kind of going to have a mullet.' And he said 'I'm a hockey player. That's what we do.'"

Lerner prefers to cut what she refers to as a "Euro Mullet," commonly seen on European soccer players, including David Beckham at times. The Euro version is a little more subtle, with more of a gradual fade, and the party-in-back portion is noticeably shorter. Lerner says that look has more texture to it "instead of two separate haircuts fused together to create something very ugly."

Another possible culprit for the departure of the traditional mullet is simply the passage of time. Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith says, "I guess it was big back in the day. These things tend to go in phases. I guess for now, it's kind of out." Teammate Brian Campbell supports the theory. "Times change. I think you don't see too many mullets in the world today now. If you do, you tend to laugh," he says.

The very clean-cut Blackhawks head coach Denis Savard has little explanation for the absence of mullets these days. "Why you don't see it I don't know," Savard says.

Though his own rules don't do much to help the cause. He prefers his players keep a shorter look, but is willing to make exceptions for those with a Samson complex. "Most young guys believe that you lose your strength if you get a haircut," Savard says. "That's pretty tough to tell them to get a haircut then, because it's a mind thing, you know."

If the mullet is to have a resurgence in hockey, it may need to ride on the head of the reigning Calder Trophy winner, Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane. "I was thinking this year I want to try to get my hair past my name on my jersey," says Kane. He adds, "I don't want it long on the top or on the sides. I might have to try the mullet."

Keith and Campbell say they'd support a mullet-wearing Kane, but captain Jonathan Toews is skeptical. "I don't know if it's his style," he says.

Should the young Blackhawks make the playoffs this year, most players on the team would be willing to consider growing a mullet as a sign of solidarity, with the exception of Toews. "I'm a bigger fan of the playoff beard thing. I'm not able to grow a full beard yet, but it's still what I'd rather do."