The Old Spice Guy is the epitome of perfection. Chiseled and confident, he’s “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like,” the television commercials say.
But when he’s not shirtless, in a shower, or on a horse in the TV spots, the Old Spice Guy – aka actor Isaiah Mustafa – has skates on his feet and a stick in his hand, working diligently to perfect his hockey game. Mustafa, to put it mildly, is a puck nut.
“Old Spice Guy” Isaiah Mustafa takes his stick everywhere – even to South Africa.
He has a goal in his garage that he fires 300 pucks into daily; when he’s not traveling he’s at his local rink at 6:30 a.m. every day for a morning skate and pickup game; when he does travel he takes his hockey stick with him to practice his stickhandling; he has a Budweiser goal light that goes off every time his beloved Los Angeles Kings score; and he’s a Kings season ticket holder.
The success of the Old Spice ads has enabled Mustafa to mix business with hockey pleasure. He’ll be in Sochi, Russia, in February hawking Old Spice at the 2014 Winter Olympics and catching a hockey game or two. He attended the NHL Awards show in Las Vegas last year, and was mistakenly taken for a Vancouver Canucks fan when he visited the city for Old Spice during the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.
Mustafa admits that he’s hardly the second coming of Wayne Gretzky when he’s on the ice. The former National Football League practice squad player/turned actor is a relative late-comer to playing hockey – but he’s game for developing his game.
He attended a Weekend Warriors adult hockey camp in Montreal in summer 2012 to sharpen his skills and tweeted “Apparently there’s a whole left side of my body that needs to learn to skate.”
Mustafa, center, with friends at an adult hockey camp. (Rick Parisi, Weekend Warriors Hockey).
“I look at it like this: I gotta catch up,” Mustafa told me. “I gotta catch up with these dudes who’ve been playing all their lives. If I don’t start by doing crazy training, which I’m used to from football, I’ll be one of the dudes that just gets out there – a weekend player. I can’t just do that. I literally have to be the best I can be.”
Mustafa says he’s always loved hockey and the Kings, but he didn’t start playing the game until 2001. A woman he was dating at the time had a son who wanted to play hockey, so she bought equipment for him and Mustafa.
“She’s like ‘If you take him he’ll keep playing.’ So I ended up taking him a few times and the kid just stops, he didn’t want to play anymore,” Mustafa said. “I went a couple times more, like pickup games. Then I started acting, got busy and didn’t start thinking about skating anymore until right around the time the Kings won the Stanley Cup” in 2012.
After the Weekend Warriors camp, Mustafa joined a team that played in a tournament in Las Vegas but he “got so frustrated because of the fact I was the worst player out there.”
“I was, like, ‘screw it, I’m going to play everyday and in one year when I play in this tournament again I’m going to shock the s*** out of you guys,” he said, laughing. “That’s what I’ve been doing since mid-July. It’s been non-stop.
And he’s been watching hockey non-stop. When a relationship fizzled in 2011, Mustafa didn’t drown his sorrow in booze or women. He called his cable provider instead and ordered the NHL Center Ice package. He watched NHL Network “every damn day to learn the game inside out.”
“I literally watched every game I could possibly watch,” Mustafa told me. “I got to know (NHL Tonight analysts) Jamie McLennan and Kevin Weekes so good, I would just tweet them ‘like Hey guys, nice show, nice comment.’ I learned way more than any person should know that season.”
Mustafa said when people see the Old Spice Guy on the ice they “sometimes do a double-take and they go ‘Hey, are you…’ and I’m like, ‘yeah.'”
“Then they always ask ‘What got you into hockey,'” he said. “I just want to play, I want to challenge myself to see how good I can get. Honest-to-God, I think I’m getting better, but I’ve ‘ve got a ways to go.”
Inquiring minds want to know: Does the Old Spice Guy smell good after three sweat-drenched periods of hockey?
“He ALWAYS smells good,” Mustafa insisted. “If you asked him he would literally slap ‘good’ into your mouth and tell you to use Old Spice body wash because it prevents people from asking such asinine questions. But that’s just him.”