GLENDALE – The NHL's schedule maker was very kind to the Coyotes this season when it comes to Thanksgiving week. Arizona played a home game on Tuesday night and doesn’t play again until Saturday night at home. That’s three nights in a row without a game or travel.
Thanksgiving, of course, is Thursday and the Coyotes players are ready for a one-day break from hockey.
"This is a great time of the year to really put everything into perspective and enjoy it," captain Shane Doan said. "I’m definitely going to do that."
Defensemen Connor Murphy and Michael Stone, forward Rob Klinkhammer, Assistant to the General Manager/Goaltending Coach Sean Burke and Radio Analyst Nick Boynton will spend part of their Thanksgiving Day helping serve a holiday brunch at a Phoenix-based shelter on Thursday morning.
After that, they and their teammates will enjoy quality time with their friends and/or families.
Every player surveyed after Wednesday's practice said he couldn’t wait to sit down at the table and dig in to a holiday meal.
"I’m a big fan of eating so there's nothing better than a big meal and some dessert and just being able to lay there and veg," defenseman Connor Murphy said with a smile. "I like that a lot. We don’t get to have turkey so often so I'll be excited to get some of that. And you can never have enough stuffing. I feel that’s the one thing that’s not in any other meal all year so you’ve got to take advantage of that."
Forward Joe Vitale also will be filling up on stuffing.
"My wife makes this unbelievable cornbread stuffing," Vitale said. "I could eat the whole pan if she doesn't take it away from me. Fortunately we have a practice the next day so I can cheat a little more this year and sweat it out on Friday."
Even center Martin Hanzal is eager for Thanksgiving, a holiday he never celebrated in his native Czech Republic.
"I might have to go get a turkey sub," he said.
Some of the players said they plan to mix some football watching into their day off, if their young kids allow. For some, that’s only a dream.
"I’ll be chasing kids all day long," Vitale said with a smile. "I won’t even know if there's football on or not. Hopefully if they squeeze in a nap, my wife and I will get a chance to relax."
Some of the players surveyed plan to pitch in with preparing the Thanksgiving meal. Others said their job is to help clean up. But those jobs aren't for everyone.
"I’m the guy that eats slow so when everyone else is done I continue eating so that they’re the ones cleaning up," Murphy joked. "I’ll say 'Oh, I’ll help you guys in a second' and then they head off to the kitchen while I keep eating."
Regardless of who does what, the Coyotes players know Thursday is all about being grateful.
Perhaps forward B.J. Crombeen said it best: "Thanksgiving is a great time to get together with friends and family, and to really reflect on how blessed we are and all the great things we get to enjoy and the life we have."