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Players share favorite holiday gift memories with NHL.com

Sticks, video games among highlights under Christmas tree

by NHL.com @NHLdotcom

What do NHL players remember about their favorite hockey-related Christmas gifts from their childhood? We asked them and their answers were amazing.

Almost every player has a stick-under-the-Christmas-tree story, it seems.

"If you were lucky enough to get a hockey stick, that was No. 1, for sure," Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson said.

Wilson doesn't remember how old he was when he first saw a twig waiting for him after racing from his bedroom to the Christmas tree, but he remembers it wasn't wrapped.

"It was just sitting beside the tree," he said. "I think Santa was a little lazy, and it's a tough object to wrap. Sometimes there would be a bow stuck on it."

For Wilson, the same scenario played out each Christmas, another unwrapped stick, maybe adorned with a bow, beside the Christmas tree.

The best one?

"When I was younger, I had a wooden stick. The first composite was a TPS Rubber 45 flex, two-piece stick. So that was probably at age 8 or 9," Wilson said. "That was the best stick ever at the time. And it started out with wooden blades and then from there they put a composite blade in a composite stick."

For New York Rangers forward Brett Howden, it was the CCM U+ Crazy Light stick.

"It isn't any crazy story, but it was hidden behind the tree so after we cleaned up the mess of all the wrapping paper, I saw there was one gift left. My parents surprised me with it," he said. "I was 9 or 10 years old, can't remember exactly, and I'm also not sure how long it took until it broke, [but] it was one I really wanted."

Carl Hagelin wanted a one-piece stick so badly one Christmas that he ordered it himself.

"My mom and dad weren't good at doing stuff online," the Capitals forward said. "So I ordered an Easton Synergy right when they came out with a [Chris] Drury curve. I was probably 12, maybe 13. So, I knew it was coming, but that was my Christmas gift."

Philadelphia Flyers forward Kevin Hayes got sticks in bulk when he was a kid.

"My dad would get these wooden Jofa sticks, and he would buy them by the [dozen]," Hayes said. "And at Christmas, they'd be all taped up together. I used those Jofas ... they had a lot of goals in them when I was younger."

For Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, it was the first aluminum stick he received that stands out. He was 10 years old and was playing AA-level hockey when it arrived.

"It was a Wayne Gretzky aluminum Easton hockey stick," he said. "I think it was a terrible choice for a kid to be using an aluminum hockey stick, but that's what they were selling back in the day."

A new stick requires new gloves to hold it, right?

Gloves, it seems, were a big deal for a lot of aspiring pros.

Flyers defenseman Justin Braun always got hand-me-down gloves from his older brother, beat-up pairs that smelled like wet leather and had been rolling around in hockey bags for a couple of years.

Finally, Santa brought him a new pair that he could call his own.

"That was one that I really thought was cool; I was probably between 8 and 10," he said. "That was nice to feel real leather.

Teammate Jakub Voracek had a specific pair on his list when he was 9 or 10: blue-and-white Bauer gloves. 

"I got them, and I was so happy, I wore them for three years," he said. "I loved them. That was my favorite hockey present that I've ever got."

Let's not forget about the goalies.

"What stands out still is when I got my first goalie mask," Calgary Flames goalie Cam Talbot said. "I think I was 10, maybe 11, and I was just using a [skater]'s mask with a dangler attached to it, so the first time I had a real goalie mask was definitely it."

For Flyers goalie Brian Elliott, it was a new catching glove.

"It made you feel like a real goalie instead of just picking equipment up at the local rink and throwing it on," he said. "I want to say I was 11 or 12; it was a Brian's -- black, red and white, my local team colors."

Sometimes, non-goalies were over the moon to get goalie equipment. Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Justin Holl said he got goalie leg pads for Christmas when he was 10.

"I'd been asking for them so we could dress someone up in net whenever we'd play pond hockey," Holl said. "I played a bit myself, I liked playing goalie. When we'd play street hockey in the summer, I'd play goalie."

Perhaps that gift could pay dividends for the Maple Leafs.

"Maybe I could jump in if we ever need an emergency goalie or something!" he said, smiling.

There is more to fuel a passion for hockey than just equipment.

Matt Nieto of the Colorado Avalanche grew up in California and loved hockey, particularly the Anaheim Ducks. He remembers getting tickets to go to a Ducks game when he was 8 or so.

"It was probably the most exciting gift I've ever gotten."

For Travis Dermott of the Maple Leafs, it was a PlayStation2 gaming system, one which allowed him to play the EA Sports NHL games.

"Santa hooked me up with that bad boy. It was NHL all the time for me, probably like NHL 04, I think," he said.

Sometimes Dermott says he would play with his dad, either the NHL game or a baseball game. No matter the sport, the games got heated.

"I'd just lose my mind," Dermott said. "I was so competitive as a kid and I was such a sore loser and hadn't learned how to just take it easy. Now he'll admit sometimes he had to let me win, otherwise I'd be crying and throwing the controllers."

For Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Connor Murphy, it was a bubble hockey game when he was in second or third grade.

"It was an unbelievable gift," Murphy said. "To this day, bubble hockey's unbelievable, but especially at that age, it seemed bigger."

Flyers forward Travis Konecny got a full-sized hockey net when he was a kid.

"I still had the net up until a couple years ago and it was pretty beat up," the 22-year-old said.

Teammate Morgan Frost talked about a plastic street-hockey stick he received when he was 3 or 4. He used it all the time until he was 8, wearing the blade to a sliver and his shots would always be elevated, often well over the net.

"My dad got that for me one Christmas and I used that forever," Frost said. "I think I still have it, I didn't throw it out. Once I started getting older, it was small but I loved it so much I didn't want to give it up."

Maple Leafs center Jason Spezza, 36, still has a bubble-hockey game he received when he was 5 or 6.

"I got the old Wayne Gretzky knob hockey game," Spezza said. "It was like the bubble hockey but just on the board where all the guys are in tracks, in slots. I actually still have it, it's probably an antique now!"

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