Disclaimer: Because there has been some confusion (really?!) with the truthiness of our LHH Zeitgeist posts, we reiterate that what follows is not, in fact, based on real events ... as far as you know. Enjoy.
For those unfamiliar with the malady, "Islander-Face" (IF) has been rampant in the NY Islanders locker room for the past two seasons. Of no relation to Islanders Hip, IF symptoms include random concaving of orbital, cheek bone, and jaw line areas with co-morbid swelling and bruising, lowered self-esteem and fractured pride.
Much like the staph infections in the Cleveland Browns locker room several seasons ago, IF appears to be highly contagious with Tim Jackman, Jack Hillen, Bruno Gervais, Mike Mottau, and most recently Rick DiPietro coming down with full blown cases and Travis Hamonic, Rob Schremp and Matt Martin experiencing low level symptoms.
This diagnosis was first seen in the strange case of Darius Kasparaitis and was eradicated in the Islander locker room until Jim Cummins came down with possibly the most severe case on record. Read on to learn how IF takes hold, and what steps to take to prevent it.
'Too Much Handsome Can Get You in Trouble'
Islander's strength and conditioning coach Jesse Demers ("Demers De-Body Developer") has consistently cautioned players against the horrible affliction (which is not curable, only manageable) with minimal success thus far. There are apparently two strains of Islander-Face, the "Punch-Face" strain (Type 1 IF), and the "Karmic Puck Attraction" (Type 2 IF) strain. Neither is pleasant, but Type 1 is more manageable, Demers asserts.
"I've been preaching it since day one here," he said. Demers is convinced that because the Islanders young players are so handsome, they are more prone to IF. "You tell me," he said. "I mean look at Rick's post game interview...a fedora and a cashmere scarf? That's a dangerous level of handsome."
In a piece on the NY Islander's team site in August of 2010 Demers was quoted as saying, "When one part of the body is overdeveloped, you get a lot of injuries." He continued, "A lot of guys over train the body in certain areas, which creates imbalances and that's where a lot of problems come from."
On the topic of IF, he adds: "Too much handsome can get you in trouble and that's the message I'm trying to convey to these guys. During pre-season, we discussed precautions like outfitting appropriately. Why a fedora when a baseball cap will do? Do we really need all that hair gel? Et cetera, et cetera. Some get it, some don't... I throw my hands up sometimes. When your handsome is overdeveloped it leads to IF. Simple."
Sensing my skepticism, Demers went on to point out "...take a look around the league. You don't see Tyler Kennedy or Michael Handzus coming down with Islander-Face do you? Do you think it's a coincidence that Rick came down with it after his faux-hawk grew back in?" Demers made valid points which warranted further investigation, to confirm, I spoke with some of the afflicted players.
Bruno Gervais is now a believer: "You know, my first inclination was to just stop showering at the rink, when Jesse was talking about my overwhelming handsomeness," he said. "But after I contracted Punch-Face IF, I knew he was right...I was just too visually appealing."
Jack Hillen is a player who is currently managing his Karmic Puck Attraction IF. "For a while there, things were rough," he said. "I mean, my wife and I were trying to start a family and that had to be put on hold until my Type 2 went into remission...she was put off by my hideousness."
'Prevention is Key. Avoid Activities that Bring on the Handsome.'
Demers described the cycle of IF, indicating that once handsomeness reaches critical levels, IF tends to bring players down to acceptable handsome levels on its own. "Notice the swelling and purple/yellow hue?" he pointed out on Matt Martin's file photos. "IF has a mechanism for homeostasis. Once contracted, you drop below even acceptable attraction levels to somewhere in the disturbingly disfigured to pretty ugly range. From there, players are given a chance at ground zero to manage the affliction...if they take care to not let their handsome get out of control again."
This is easier said than done for some. In the case of DiPietro, overcoming the scars of adolescence is the biggest key. In high school, DiPietro had an acne and self-esteem issue that manifests in over-compensation of handsome.
"Prevention is the biggest key. You need to avoid items or activities that bring on the handsome," Demers said. "He uses this special facial cream from a local Korean day spa owner [ed.: something Long Island has in spades and can become an attractive nuisance for those that are trending toward handsome] named Yutukwan Ahn-Chin. Not only does it soften his skin, but it apparently has softened some of his skull and brain tissue resulting in poor choices throughout the game," Demers shared. "You saw what happened with the Cooke/Johnson incident...that's why we have rough men like Konopka...who by the way, leads the charge against handsome along with Radek Martinek. Those guys take my program seriously."
Aside from the obvious physical ramifications of IF, it weighs on the equipment staff and team budget as well. Islander's owner Charles Wang has had to spend several extra thousands of dollars on full shields for helmets, labor for assembly, and the removal of mirrors throughout the Islander's recently renovated locker room.
In the end, there is some hope that the team is beginning to see the light. "Many of the guys have bought in to the workout regimen which focuses on quick lateral head movement to prevent both Punch-Face and Karmic Puck Attraction Strains." Demers said. "But that's only half the battle for Type 1. Some of the best prevention you can do involves nutrition." he pontificated. "Two of the biggest things I stress are avoiding knuckle sandwiches and not biting off more than you can chew if you're prone to IF."
Getting To Know: Jesse Demers, Islanders Strength Coach, International IF Expert
Favorite Food: Peanut Brittle
Color: Black and Blue
Hobbies/Interests: Making it look mean
TV Show: House
Movies: Unbreakable/Frankenstein (tie)
Song: Damage Inc.-Metallica
Board Game: Operation
Candy: Reese's Pieces
Vacation Spot: I don't get vacations here
Hidden Talents: Practical jokes. "Recently I tricked DP by betting him you can't lick someone else's elbow. He won, haha!"