The mane has been shorn, yielding 10 ½ inches of hockey hair for the cancer charity Locks of Love. Calgary winger Ben Hanowski sported a crew cut Sunday in his debut as an NHL player at Xcel Energy Center, joking that his former St. Cloud State teammates might not recognize him.
The Little Falls, Minn., native was delighted to see that his first road game in the league would be in his home state. The Huskies came en masse to see the Flames defeat the Wild 4-1, filling one suite, and some 20 relatives and friends assembled in another. Hanowski, who signed with the Flames on April 12 — one day after finishing his college career — drew a big cheer when he was introduced and started the game on a line with Matt Stajan and fellow Minnesotan Tim Jackman.
“The NHL is always the goal as a hockey player,’’ said Hanowski, who saw 13 minutes, 45 seconds of ice time and had a team-high three hits. “To actually get there and play here [Sunday] in the NHL is pretty special for me. My family members and friends are pretty proud and excited for this opportunity I’ve gotten.’’
Hanowski found time for the haircut last Tuesday, a day after making his NHL debut against the Wild in Calgary. Several of the Huskies grew their hair to donate to Locks of Love, which uses it to make wigs for young cancer patients. The minimum length is 10 inches, and to get there, Hanowski had to shear his to a length he hasn’t worn since his high-school baseball days.
With the Flames eliminated from the playoff chase, Hanow- ski’s inaugural NHL experience will conclude when their regular season ends Friday at Chicago. “It’s been go, go go,’’ he said. “Once this road trip is over with, I can get back to Minnesota and just relax for a couple of weeks and be able to reflect a little bit and soak it all in.’’
Fans at Sunday’s game — the first at Xcel since Monday’s bombings at the Boston Marathon — were subject to additional security measures. The NHL quietly coordinated enhanced security plans with arenas around the league last week.
It has not issued a statement outlining the measures, but Sunday, security personnel used hand-held wands to inspect fans as they entered. St. Paul police officers also had a conspicuous presence in the concourses.
• Josh Harding stopped 23 of 25 shots through two periods of his second conditioning start with the Houston Aeros in their final regular-season game, a 3-0 loss at Oklahoma City on Sunday. Harding is expected to be recalled Monday.
• A large contingent of Wild officials will be in Des Moines on Monday for a news conference to announce that the team’s minor league affiliate will relocate from Houston next season and be named the Iowa Wild.
• Though the Wild has yet to lock up a playoff spot, tickets for potential first- and second-round home games will go on sale Monday at 10 a.m. The eight-game ticket strips cost from $512 for upper-level side seats to $2,608 for seats on the glass. They are available through www.wild.com.
• Coach Mike Yeo had no updates on the health of forwards Mike Rupp (lower body injury) and Zenon Konopka (broken foot). Neither played Sunday.
Staff writer Michael Russo contributed to this story.