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PRINCIPE: Twas the night before Christmas

by Gene Principe / Edmonton Oilers

The NHL has a lot to be thankful for this year compared to this time last year. The only thing happening in hockey was taking place in hotels and meeting rooms. Even there and then, not a lot was going on. At a time where peace and love is supposed to take over, there was certainly no labour peace and I don't think there was a lot of love in the room when the NHL and NHLPA were getting together on a new CBA. It would take a few more weeks before everything was resolved and for all the haggling and negotiating that took place one of the smaller items that was agreed on was a true Christmas break. No hockey Dec. 24, 25 and 26.

Taylor Hall (photo by Andy Devlin / EOHC)

What a difference a day makes. Doesn't sound like much but tell that to someone like Taylor Hall whose parents Kim and Steve live in Ontario. Ever since their only child turned 16 he hasn't spent a single Christmas with his parents. There just hasn't been the time to get home because of World Junior commitments or because of the NHL. That's where the extra day comes into play. In the past, there simply wasn't enough time to fly cross country in the case of Hall. Often, Edmonton would play a game on the 23rd. Then a good chunk of the 24th would be spent flying to Toronto and driving to Kingston. A few hours with family and much of Christmas day would be spent getting back to Edmonton or where the Oilers often played on Boxing Day in Vancouver.

Not exactly a Merry Christmas when you end up spending more time in the air than on the ground. Plus while many of us can go to work on boxing day feeling lethargic or weighed down after turkey, mashed potatoes, ham, corn, peas, desserts etc., etc., etc., that can't be the case for the players. It's back to work and feeling slow and stuffed doesn't cut it. That's where the extra day allows for more time to digest your food and the holidays. With everyone so wrapped up in wins and losses, it feels right to get away from the game.

This new CBA also works out great for families like the Schultz's. In the case of Nick, his wife and three kids. First off, the trade to Edmonton a couple seasons ago helped put him closer to his mother in Saskatchewan and his brothers in Medicine Hat. They are all invading his home for the next few days and he couldn't be happier. Christmas time for the Schultz's meant going to midnight mass on Christmas Eve and Nick always remembers how he and his family would hold candles and sing 'Silent Night' at their small town church in Strasbourg, Saskatchewan. The holidays are about making memories that last a lifetime and making them happen with those that mean the most to you.

Wherever you are and whomever you are with enjoy the break. A time to reflect upon making a difference in the world. To spread good will and appreciate what you have. Be close to those that you love. Put the BlackBerry away (which I'm doing right now) and the iPhone and enjoy a time of the year not meant for work but for family and friends. A Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone from my family to yours.

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