CHICAGO -- Patrick Kane looks for three things the day the NHL releases its schedule for the upcoming season.
"What's our schedule around Christmas, when is the Buffalo [Sabres] game, and what's going on for Thanksgiving?" the Chicago Blackhawks forward and Buffalo native said.
For as long as he's been with the Blackhawks, Thanksgiving has always meant a road trip, so he was pleasantly surprised when he looked at the 2019-20 schedule back in June.
"This is the first time in my career we've been home for Thanksgiving," said Kane, in his 13th season with the Blackhawks. "It was cool to see we'd be home this season."
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It's actually the first time the Blackhawks will be home for Thanksgiving in 40 years. The last time they were in Chicago for the holiday was 1979, when they defeated the Washington Capitals 4-0 at Chicago Stadium on Nov. 21, the day before Thanksgiving that year.
The Blackhawks, who defeated the Dallas Stars 3-0 on Tuesday to end a three-game winless streak (0-2-1), host the Colorado Avalanche on Friday (4 p.m. ET; NBCSCH, ALT, NHL.TV) before heading to Colorado to play the Avalanche again Saturday.
"It's something that was shocking to see in the schedule," forward Brandon Saad said. "You don't see it often here, but it's definitely going to be nice to be home and celebrate that tradition."
The Blackhawks have usually been on the road at Thanksgiving for what they call the "Circus Trip," the annual two-week excursion in late November while Ringing Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus was at United Center, and before that Chicago Stadium.
Blackhawks broadcaster Pat Foley remembers trips, prior to having an organized holiday dinner on the road, when he and former general manager Dale Tallon were walking around Western Canada on Thanksgiving searching for a turkey sandwich.
"We'd always find one, but it was an effort," said Foley, who, before this season, would celebrate Thanksgiving with family in October. "We'd just find a day when we got everybody together, have a turkey, and have our own little Thanksgiving. It'll be a little strange to be celebrating with everyone else."
The final "Circus Trip" was in November 2016, but the Blackhawks still were on the road for Thanksgiving in 2017 and 2018. The day became another team bonding opportunity for the Blackhawks. Wherever they stayed, they would gather in the banquet room of that hotel, watch football, and have Thanksgiving dinner around 4 or 5 p.m. local time.
"It was usually a pretty good spread. You had all the options," Saad said. "At the end of the day, it's not home cooking but it's pretty nice."
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But it'll be nicer to enjoy Thanksgiving with family. Saad said he's looking forward to spending it with his wife, Alyssa, and their 3-month-old son, Teo. Kane will be spending it with his girlfriend, Amanda.
"It's obviously better this year being at home for the first time and being able to go to my girlfriend's family's house," said Kane, who's also ready to watch his hometown Buffalo Bills play the Dallas Cowboys in one of three NFL games on Thanksgiving. "My parents are in town and are joining us as well. It's a little bit different … so, it's nice to be home."
Goalie Corey Crawford is from Montreal but said he enjoys American Thanksgiving as much as the Canadian one in October, and he'll be celebrating with his wife, Kristy, who's from Chicago, and their 2-year-old son, Cooper. Kristy is also pregnant with their second child.
"[Kristy's] family is from here, so I'm sure we'll do something with them," Crawford said. "There's always a big get-together with their family. I have my parents coming down, so it'll be nice to have that with family. I mean, there's a few grandkids and more on the way, so the holidays are going to be pretty special now and for years to come."
Some family members, such as forward Alex DeBrincat's parents, are making it an extended stay because the Blackhawks will take their annual trip with their moms from Dec. 4-6. They play at the Boston Bruins on Dec. 5 and at the New Jersey Devils the following day.
Being on the road for Thanksgiving was a longtime tradition for the Blackhawks. They're happy that this year they can celebrate it at home.
"My [first] two years here, we were in Florida," DeBrincat said. "It's nice being in the warm weather for Thanksgiving, but it's also nice to be with family. It'll be fun to play some home games and then celebrate the holiday."