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Babcock, players enjoy Thanksgiving

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings
Mike Babcock will spend Thanksgiving by himself Thursday, as his wife, Maureen, and their two daughters will spend the holiday in Fargo, N.D., where the couple's son plays hockey. (Photo by Getty Images)

DETROIT – The thing that Mike Babcock likes most about Thanksgiving is that he usually gets to share in two feasts – one in Canada in mid-October, followed by the U.S. observance this Thursday.

“Yeah, I double dip,” the Red Wings’ coach said, “every time I get a chance.”

While most Americans will spend Thursday with family and friends watching football and devouring turkey in bulk, Babcock will be all alone.

“My son’s in Fargo (N.D.) so my wife and two girls went to Fargo, they like him better than they like me,” he said.

Babcock’s son, Mike, is in his second USHL season playing for the Fargo Force.

“All by myself. Poor guy, can you imagine?” the coach said. “I think a lot of our coaches are by themselves just because their families are somewhere else. We’re going to New Jersey tomorrow night. But I bet you there’s a way to get a meal somewhere.”

The Wings won’t practice Thursday, giving those with families in town time to spend with their loved ones before boarding the team plane later for the flight to New Jersey, where they will play the Devils Friday night. While that doesn’t give much time to observe the holiday that won’t stop some of the players from gathering for a special meal in the afternoon.

“I’m sure a few of the Swedes will go together and do our own little Thanksgiving thing,” forward Gustav Nyquist said. “We don’t have Thanksgiving in Sweden. I guess now that we’ve been here for so long, we enjoy the holiday as well.”

The Red Wings’ roster consists of players from all across the world, Russia, Sweden, Slovakia, Czech Republic, and even France. Those from outside North America say there’s no holiday quite like American Thanksgiving back home. But now that they’ve lived in the States and experienced the holiday first hand – with billet families or teammates in past years – the tradition has grown on them.

“It’s a really good tradition here in the U.S. I’m really happy I can be part of it,” forward Tomas Tatar said. “I have friends here from Slovakia that have lived here over 20 years … so they give me a chance to come over to them so I’m really excited about it.”

Thanksgiving may be days on the American and Canadian calendars, but it could easily be observed in other parts of the world in recognition for the blessings most everyone receives year round.

It’s good to see the European players assimilate to new traditions, Babcock said, though whatever spreads the players put together wouldn’t be like anything the coach experienced while growing up in the Canadian prairie.

“They’ve been here a long time a lot of our guys,” he said. “They get together and have a nice meal. I’m not sure if it’s a nice, big turkey that I would like, with the kind of dressing my mom made but I’m sure it’s a nice meal.”

As for the Thanksgiving menu, Tatar and Nyquist are also partial to the big bird, however, forward Tomas Jurco doesn’t care for the traditional fare served on the fourth Thursday in November.

“I realize it’s pretty big holiday here,” he said. “We didn’t have that back home so I didn’t really celebrate it. I just know it’s a big thing for you guys here.”

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