By Josh Plummer
Just because you spend your holidays packed alongside 23 grizzled buddies on a plane, or in a locker room, or in a hotel, doesn't mean the magic's completely lost.
Yes, you're time at the in-laws is cut short, and the holiday party is more tame than most, but it's still about kicking back and sharing with friends and family.
"I've got some family in town, so we're going to just do the family thing," says Brendan Morrison, father of three. "My kids are getting all excited and we might try to get up to one of the local mountains for tobogganing."
Morrison puts on a good front. He tries to act like the holiday season is just for his kids, but it's pretty obvious the family man from Pitt Meadows gets caught up in the spirit himself.
"I remember getting my first pair of rollerblades when I was about eight-years-old," he says. "We lived in a cul-de-sac and my two best friends got them as well, so we wore those things every day possible. We wore them right down to the bearings."
Dany Sabourin's had family in town for the past few of weeks, so he's planning to get away for a few day. He's taking his wife and new baby up to Whistler.
He can't say what he's giving this Christmas - it could ruin the surprise - but he's quick to recall the most exciting gift he ever received.
Not surprisingly, it was his first set of goalie pads when he was eight-years-old. He'd seen an old poster of Richard Brodeur in the locker room at his local rink and decided he wanted to become a netminder.
They were the old brown leather kind that collected ice and had to be brushed off between shots to keep from getting soggy.
"When I was a kid, anything about hockey was big for me," says Sabourin. "If it was pads or a glove, or anything like that - it was huge. Even now when I get new stuff it's always exciting."
Sabby's hockey fever wasn't limited to equipment, he was fixated on anything NHL related.
"I remember getting Sega '95 or '92 or whatever it was," says Sabourin, his eyes lighting up. "When I played that game I used to be Edmonton all the time. I was a big fan of Bill Ranford when I was a kid and the way he played - with the sliding two pad save and throwing his glove in the air. Doug Weight was always good in front of the net on that video game too."
Odds are he won't be packing the old Sega up to Whistler, but a PSP might find its way into a loose pocket. Sami Salo
- a self-confessed electronics addict - doesn't have time for games. Finnish tradition demands he take part in a very specific dinner rituals. Forget turkey and stuffing, Sami's all about the duo of pork bonanza: pickled and salted ham.
The meal's good, but there's one long-time Finnish custom he won't be enjoying this year.
"I'd love to take an outdoor sauna and then jump into the freezing cold water and then go back into the sauna, followed by a nice dinner" says Salo.
"It's too bad we can't do that here in Canada - but I'll still get the family together and relax and enjoy the holiday. It's not a very long break we have, but we've got to make the best out of those days and enjoy a good Christmas dinner."
Gifts of hockey sticks and skates were the popular present for most aspiring hockey players and Salo's no different.
"The one present that stands out for me is my first pair of skates when I was about three or four," says Salo. "They sat beside my bed for many, many nights after that. I had skates before that, but they were always my brothers. That was the first time I got brand new ones."
Trevor Linden couldn't get out the door fast enough after opening his best present.
"When the first aluminum sticks came out in the 80's - I got one and I was pumped," said Linden with a grin. "I was out the door and on the frozen rink in about half an hour." A new stick probably doesn't hold quite the same charm it once did, but Linden, like all his Canucks teammates, still gets a charge out of the holidays - though now it's more about the giving.
"The best gift I ever gave was about two years ago," says Ryan Kesler
, "We gave my brother a dog. It was a pug named Roxy."
Kesler boxed Roxy up on his brother's doorstep, then rang the doorbell and ran away.
"We got a bit lucky because she's a really good dog, but I hinted at it for a few weeks just in case he didn't want it."
Turns out he did.
As a rule teammates don't exchange gifts, so there won't be any puppies or pickled hams making the rounds in the Canucks dressing room this week. Thankfully.
All the guys want is a few days with the family, a goal or two, and maybe to climb a few more rungs up that icy Northwest Division ladder before the new year.