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Folignos happy to host Thanksgiving celebration

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

Nick Foligno has no problem hosting his teammates for Thanksgiving dinner.

He’s also quite thankful that his wife, Janelle, has volunteered to draw up the menu and do all the cooking herself.

“That’s best for everyone,” Foligno said. “She will make sure I stay very far from the kitchen.”

In all seriousness, having the team over for a holiday dinner is something the Folignos really wanted to do. In the middle of a hectic schedule, there are few opportunities for breaks and Thanksgiving is, thankfully, one of them. Unlike other major sports leagues (the NFL plays games on Thanksgiving Day), the NHL takes a one-day respite from game action on the final Thursday in November.

With such a window afforded to them, the captain Foligno wanted to provide teammates who may not have family around the chance to celebrate with their second family.

“Thanksgiving, to me, is about being around your family and being thankful for all of the blessings in your life,” Foligno said. “We have so much to be thankful for with all we’re able to do with our careers, and this is our second family here.

“If you don’t have family around – and a lot of us don’t – this is a good way to get everyone together, be away from the rink and enjoy the day. We spend enough time together that this group really is family, and we enjoy being together.”

They’ll get together – at least 30 people are coming, Foligno said – and spend the day relaxing, eating, watching football, everything you would normally expect. With a complete day off on Thursday (some NHL teams are holding practices), the Blue Jackets have a chance to rest, recharge and reflect on what the holiday is all about.

And team gatherings around the holidays are nothing new for the Blue Jackets (nor are they exclusive to them); Blue Jackets TV analyst and team ambassador Jody Shelley, who played seven seasons in Columbus, said the veterans regularly held team meals and parties around Thanksgiving.

In his day, it was former team captains Lyle Odelein, Ray Whitney and Adam Foote who hosted the team dinners, and the players loved it.

“It’s just such a great thing for everyone,” Shelley said. “It’s no hockey, none of that stuff. It’s you, your teammates, and their families, just hanging out around the holiday. The younger guys really appreciated when the veterans and captains would do that for us.”

All that's required is to bring yourself and, if they're in town, your family. The Folignos are taking care of the rest this year, and Mrs. Foligno has quite a spread prepared.

Nick had some input, but really, there was only one requirement: mashed potatoes.

"We try to keep it traditional. At least that's the philosophy," Nick said. "We'll have turkey, ham, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce…those are the staples. You have to have mashed potatoes, too, that’s a must.

"We have some great desserts planned this year. Credit to my wife for that. There are a couple of pies and a pumpkin cheesecake. I’ve never had a pumpkin cheesecake, but I’m really excited about it. I've heard good things."

And while some of his younger teammates - Dalton Prout and Ryan Murray come to mind - have some culinary interests and skills, this year's Thanksgiving dinner won't feature external contributions. Next year, perhaps?

"We’ll save the potluck concept for another time," Foligno said, laughing. "But really, it's all about being together and that's what we wanted to do. It'll be great, and I'm glad we'll have so many of the guys over at our house with us. Hopefully this is the first of many."

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