For most members of the Missouri Mavericks, Christmas is a special time of year to spend with teammates, wives, girlfriends and those special fans who like to make the holiday season as warm and homey as possible.
Many of the Mavericks have spent the past week collecting gifts for needy families. Before a recent practice session, they took a few moments to reflect on some of their favorite Christmas memories.
Coach Scott Hillman: “As a kid, Christmas meant climbing in the car and driving to a hockey tournament. Christmas Eve was spent with the grandparents, Christmas Day we opened packages at home and the day after Christmas, it was off to a tournament somewhere. Great, great memories.”
Director of Player Personnel Simon Watson: “Christmas meant watching the World Junior Championships on TV. I’d compare it to watching the Super Bowl with your family and relatives. It’s just what you did around Christmas and became quite a family affair for our family.”
Defenseman Matt Stephenson: “When I was 6 or so, until I was 12, we had a big family party. I mean, a BIG family party. We were just kids, but we acted like adults and got to stay up ’til 2 or 3 a.m. We started outside in the snow, then came in and the guitars came out and started signing Christmas carols. It was a special time.”
Forward John-Scott Dickson: “I was 10 or 11 and I got a brand new hockey net – the real deal, not a toy net, a real net. And it was funny, my parents hung wrapping paper in front of it, kind of streamed it down the front to hide it from me. But when I saw it, I knew what it was. It didn’t take anytime to get it out in the driveway and start playing.”
Forward Evan Vossen: “When I was very young, my family would have a curling tournament in Manitoba. My great-grandma was in her late 80s and she would dress up in these ridiculous costumes that would make all of us laugh and she would go out and compete. I was too young to curl, but I remember how much I loved watching everyone and how much fun we had.”
Forward Sebastien Thinel: “Every year, my grandmother would give me a remote control car. That was the it, the same gift, and by the time the next Christmas came around, I needed a new one because I’d either worn my old car out or broke it. I could count on her to give me a new one.”
Forward Andrew Courtney: “When I was 10 or 11 I got a new Wayne Gretzky Easton aluminum one piece hockey stick with the wood blade. It wasn’t wrapped – it didn’t need to be – it was right there by the tree and that was the first thing I went and picked up. I remember it like it was yesterday.”
Defenseman Anders Franzon: “From the time I was 7 until I was 15 all our relatives would go to a cabin in Quebec and celebrate Christmas. It was so much fun to be with all my family at Christmas because that’s just about impossible any more.”
Defenseman Tyler Currier: “When I was 8 or 9 I got a pair of Air Walk shoes. Those were the shoes you had to have, and I got them that Christmas. I wore them all around the house, then wore them outside. I think I had them for about a year, and I never took them off – expect to sleep or skate.”
Trainer Bill Murray: “I’m going to date myself. When I was in fifth grade, my dad had a special Cincinnati Reds custom jacket made for me. It had CINCINNATI and the team logo on it and No. 5, Johnny Bench’s number, on the back. It wasn’t like today, when you can go out and buy a Starter jacket. He had this one made special, and I still have it.”
Equipment manager Andrew Dvorak: “I haven’t experienced my best Christmas moment or memory, but I will this Christmas when Shannon and I celebrate with our little guy (5-month-old Owen). We’ve taken him to get his photo with Santa, and he’s opened some gifts at the team party, but I can’t wait to see him open his first gift at home on his first Christmas. That is going to be special.”
Forward Eric Castonguay: “My best Christmas was when I was 17 and my dad bought me my first car. We went and picked it out, and I had a budget to respect, and we got it on Dec. 23rd. I’ll never forget it.”
Forward Mike Ramsay: “My favorite Christmas memories are those where I was able to be with my family. That was a long, long time ago, and they will always be special.”
Forward Rob Kleebaum: “Watching the World Juniors. It was a family tradition. We’d all get together on Boxing Day – December 26th for the Americans in the crowd – and watch the World Juniors. The best time ever.”
Forward Trevor Kell: “During the holidays, all the kids who were off playing hockey and all our relatives would reunite and play hockey. We’d love those times because for a lot of us, it was the last time we’d be home playing hockey with our families and friends.”
Defenseman Dave Pszenyczny: “One Christmas, my dad gave me and my brothers these boxes, about the size of a watch box. They were all decorated and we wondered what was in them, so we opened them up and there was a lump of coal in each box. I mean, we were all fired up, opened them, and there is this lump of coal. My old man was laughing so hard. Then, we got our real gifts. He told us the looks on our faces was his best present.”
Forward Colt King: “I don’t have a particular gift I remember, but I remember how crazy Christmas was when I was a little kid because my folks had gotten a divorce. So we went to everyone’s houses and spent time with the cousins and all the relatives. It started on Christmas with mom, dad came and got us, we went to the grandparents’ houses – there was food, a lot of presents and a lot of fun for a kid.”
Goaltender Shane Owen: “I remember getting a nice pair of goalie pads when I was about 10. Pretty cool.”
Defenseman Colton Hayes: “When I was 9 I got the new Easton Synergy hockey stick. I loved that hockey stick. I remember that Christmas like it was yesterday.”
Forward Obi Aduba: "I remember building snow forts when I was younger. That's one of my best memories."