Nashville Predators players share their favorite Christmas memories, holiday traditions and the best gift they received growing up.
Any Christmas traditions that have stuck with you?
“Christmas Day we had the tradition on my mom’s side of going to the community club, which is like the outdoor rink and everything, so I just remember being outdoors playing. We’d play hockey for three or four hours and then play broomball… We’d get there right after opening presents. There were about eight kids in the family, a lot of cousins… everybody was into the broomball.”
Can you look forward to the holiday break squeezed into the middle of a season like it is?
“You’ve got to do Christmas, you’ve got to get in the holiday cheer a little bit. Your focus is always going to be on hockey, but it’s still nice to get away and get in some family time and get in the holiday spirit.”
Is there a gift that you’re hoping for this Christmas?
“I want a Red Rider BB gun pretty bad.”
What does the Christmas holiday look like at the Jokinen house?
“We’ve got three days off, so it’s time to relax, eat good food and spend time with the family. It’s a good break. The kids are excited; hopefully they’ve been good this year and Santa brings a lot of gifts, we’ll see how good they’ve been. But it’s a good time, you can relax and energize yourself and recharge the batteries and get ready for the next push. It’s always the way it goes, training camp starts, the season starts going and then it’s Christmas and you energize yourself for three days. Then it’s the other push for the All-Star break and then the [playoffs]. You want to spend those days well and get your rest, but it’s a good time to spend with the wife and kids.”
Are you anticipating the jolly old elf to make an appearance?
“We used to have Santa Claus come in, but now the past seven or eight years, Santa comes in the middle of the night so the kids don’t see him. My oldest one is 14, so I think when she was around seven or eight, she kind of started asking, ‘Why does Santa look different every Christmas?’ So now he won’t be here the 24th, he’ll be here the 25th in the morning.”
What are you looking forward to most about the Christmas break?
“It’s going to be good being at home with my family and try to get some rest and enjoy some family time. It’s going to be nice to be home and eat some good food. We have family coming on the 26th, so that’ll be nice. We’ll probably do Christmas a little later when they’re here, so it’s going to be fun.”
Do you have any holiday traditions?
“I wish, but we don’t have snow here. Back home, we would play in the snow all day, so we’ll figure it out year-to-year.”
What are some of plans looking like for Christmas?
“We always had our dinner with the family back home [when I was younger], but my family is coming down on the 25th, my brother and two cousins, so I think we’re going to have a nice dinner with them. We always used to have a dinner on the 24th and then dinner on the 25th, so it was always a great time.”
Would you have any traditional Swiss food for dinner?
“We had fondue with some beef, so we always had that on the 24th and then on the 25th was something different every time.”
Is there a gift that stands out as a favorite when you were younger?
“I was always excited to get presents. [My parents] always wanted to do presents after dinner, but we kids couldn’t wait. There was definitely a lot of cool things I got when I was young, maybe like a soccer jersey or I got those hockey sticks, the little hockey sticks. I remember one time I got a Colorado Avalanche one with all the signatures on it, so that was cool.”
Do you have any Cullen family traditions during Christmas?
“Nothing crazy or out of the ordinary, we eat a lot of food and we usually open our presents on Christmas Eve. We’re going up into the mountains this year, we’ve never done anything like that before. Growing up, we’d usually have a big hockey game out on the backyard rink on Christmas Eve and then come in and have hot chocolate and open presents and then have Christmas Day with family.”
What’s it like on Christmas with your sons around opening presents?
“There’s nothing organized about it, it’s straight chaos. It brings back a lot of memories seeing those guys, so it’s always a lot of fun. They get out of school and we have a lot of fun and enjoy our time together.”
What was your favorite gift that you received growing up?
“It was always a big one whenever I’d get a new hockey stick for Christmas. I remember being so disappointed when you’re a kid you open up clothes and you’re like, ‘Oh no,’ but any hockey stuff; you’d usually get a new piece of equipment, new helmet, stick, skates, something like that. That was always the biggest thing.”
Do you have any plans for the holiday break?
“My parents are coming down on December 26. I’m sure my mom will be cooking up some good food, but I don’t know after two weeks how I’m going to do with them staying with me [laughs], but we’ll see how it goes. I’m looking forward to it, a couple days off away from the rink will be nice.”
Is there a gift from your childhood that stands out as a memorable one?
“One thing that was consistent in my stocking, I’d always get ‘Don Cherry’s Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em’ and then every Christmas morning, we’d have a big breakfast at my house. My neighbors were really close friends and they would come down, so every Christmas morning I’d pop in ‘Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em’ and hang out while breakfast was being cooked. I was young enough where I didn’t have to cook, so I was spoiled.”
What are your plans for the Christmas break?
“I have some family coming in from Finland, so that’s going to be nice. We have pretty traditional Finnish holidays, we celebrate the 24th with just gifts and typical Christmas food, that’s about it. Just take it easy and relax a bit.”
What was your favorite gift that you received growing up?
“Probably something involving hockey, a new stick or something like that. I think it was pretty easy to pick a gift for me, just get a stick or something like that and I’d be happy for the next six months, but I think it must’ve been something like that, maybe some hockey gear or something like that.”
Do you have any plans for the Christmas break?
“I’m going home which I’m really looking forward to. It’s going to be a quick 48 hours, but it’s better than nothing. I haven’t been home in three or four months, so it should be great to see family. That’s always my favorite part about Christmas, being around family and friends. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Does the Beck family have any holiday traditions?
“When we were younger, me and my brother used to watch ‘Home Alone’ every Christmas, but I think we’re pretty traditional. We have a turkey Christmas Day, just a little bit of a party with family and friends Christmas Eve, but it’s always a great time.”
What was the best Christmas gift you ever received as a kid?
“I think whenever I got a new hockey stick, I was over the moon, especially for Christmas. You always seemed to get the nice ones at Christmas from Santa, so that was great.”
What was Christmas like growing up?
“We always went to my grandmother’s house, me, my brothers, parents and my cousins always hanging out there. They live out in the forest and it usually gets dark pretty early and a lot of snow, so it was really a great experience growing up and going out there.”
What are the differences between a Swedish Christmas and an American one?
“I’m not sure yet. This is actually my first Christmas over in the U.S. because I went to the World Junior [Championship] last season. Everyone is decorating their house and getting excited about the season. It seems to be a lot bigger over here.”
How do you celebrate Christmas in the midst of an NHL season?
“It’s a little tough, especially for me, for example, because my family is not going to be here for it. Mattias [Ekholm’s] family is coming over, so I’ll probably spend some time with them and get a good meal. It’ll be a nice three-day break off.”
Best gift you’ve ever gotten?
“That’s pretty hard. It would have to be a hockey stick or something. Hockey sticks are not that cheap, so I was always really happy when I got one for Christmas.”