When Litchfield/Dassel-Cokato senior Jake Jones skated to center ice during player introductions in the Dragons’ first-round game against Hermantown on March 3, the crowd at the Xcel Energy Center — joined by television viewers across the state — reacted quickly and audibly to Jones’ appearance on the 712.5 square-foot video screen.
“Everyone was just looking up there on the Jumbotron and was like, ‘Oh, whoa, that’s a different looking mullet,’” Jones said. “It was pretty loud in there.”
Jones had received a pregame haircut from Roxie at Wal-Mart’s SmartStyle Hair Salon that the senior described as, “a Vanilla Ice/Kenny Powers look — something crazy.” (Powers is a profane, loutish, washed-up baseball reliever played by Danny McBride in the HBO series “Eastbound and Down.” You know Vanila Ice.)
Jones’ ‘do was a glorious combination of your standard mullet — business in front, party in the back — with the added flair of racing stripes shaved on the sides.
The homage to Vanilla Ice went past simply a hairdo: Jones grew out a goatee and had slits shaved into his eyebrows — a look Ice made famous before Jones was born.
Jones’ coiffure earned him one of the tournament’s most important accolades — a spot reserved for only the most elite ‘dos in all of Minnesota: a place on the Minnesota State High School All-Hockey Hair Team.
The All-Hockey Hair Team was started five years ago by a YouTube user named “Pulltab Productions,” and the videos have become a popular annual tradition. Last year’s video was watched nearly 2.6 million times, and this year’s had racked up 1.3 million views in just its first three days online.
The video’s narrator was impressed with Jones’ “lettuce” (a.k.a. a dynamite head of hockey hair): “At number two we have Jake from Litchfield. The Xcel Center has a power meter — they better get a Kenny Powers meter. Look at this guy: you’ll notice he put stripes into his eyebrows. That’s commitment. Love ‘em.”
Not only did Jones make the cut (pun intended), he earned a No. 2 spot on the list, which features a Top 10 and Honorable Mention.
“In all honesty, I was just looking for honorable mention and I got number two,” Jones said. “... Everyone knows about the hockey hair team and we just said, ‘Hey, let’s do something fun.”
Jones was joined in the facial hair/racing stripes/mullet combination by senior Ben Haugo, who got his ‘do styled at Fantastic Sam’s.
“I grew the mustache — or tried to grow a mustache — and dyed it, and Jake did the same thing with his,” Haugo said. “Everyone was trying to get on the All-Hair team and just flaunting what we’ve got.”
Since the YouTube video was posted on Saturday, Jones has been seeing articles from Deadspin, CBS Sports, The Sporting News and other prominent publications popping up in his Twitter feed and receiving attention for his enviable flow. Jones even now has his very own .GIF, courtesy of Bro Bible.
“Obviously it’s pretty shocking at first,” Jones said of the online attention. “And then a couple more come, and it’s like, ‘This is kind of turning into something special.’ It’s a weird feeling. I like it though.”
More than just a hairdo
Sure, a viral video celebrating outrageous hockey hair may seem trivial.
But Jones’ joyful embrace of the hockey-hair tradition exemplifies the carefree, positive attitude he brought to the rink every day, L/D-C head coach Chris Olson said.
“He was willing to cut slashes in his eyebrows — you talk about being loose and having fun,” Olson said with a laugh. “He kept things loose for our guys, just being goofy.”
Olson raved about Jones’ dedication and importance to the team and his positive, team-first attitude — despite not being a first-line star.
“He didn’t play a ton,” Olson said. “You’re looking at a guy who’s on the bench, and he’s the first guy going up and down the bench, patting people on the head saying, ‘Let’s go.’ He came every day, never missed practice.”
Jones embraced his role as a “glue guy,” regardless of how much ice time he saw.
“First things first, you have to always start with a positive attitude. I think that’s the most fun part,” Jones said. “Being ready for an opportunity when the time comes — that’s an important mindset to have.
“A lot of people get discouraged if they’re not playing the minutes they want or getting the ice time they want,” Jones continued. “But you need to have a person on your team who likes to keep it loose.”
‘Do that thing you ‘do
Entering their first state tournament game in eight years and facing top-seeded Hermantown — a team that had played in the previous six state championships — Jones provided his usual motivation and reminder to keep things loose.
This time, it just happened to be with his hair.
“You had guys like Jake and Logan (Niemela) and Ben, all of them had something going on with their hair, it seemed like,” Olson said. “It was something fun to take their minds off the crowd and everything that went with it.”
“We just kind of went in wanting to go with the flow, keep things loose, not grip the stick too tight, as Coach Olson likes to say,” Jones said. (The author is unclear if the “flow” pun was intended.)
Though the Dragons ultimately lost 11-3 to the Hawks, who went on to win the Class A state title, Dragon hockey fans will remember this L/D-C team for its resiliency during a section playoff run full of exhilarating come-from-behind wins.
“I’ll always remember being down two goals going into the third period against Marshall, saying, ‘We’re OK, we’re going to win this game,’” Jones said. “Because that’s where it all started, and now we’re in the state tournament. We never quit, and that’s one of the most important character pieces about our team.”
And if the memory of this year’s team ever fades, Dragon hockey fans can always fire up their computer, visit YouTube and just go with the flow.