NORTH CHARLESTON, SC – Road trips are a way of life in hockey. Road trips over Thanksgiving are no exception either. The South Carolina Stingrays will be on the road this Thanksgiving wrapping up the last three games of a four-game road set. What’s a little different this year is that the ‘Rays will actually play in Atlanta on Thanksgiving versus just being on the road for turkey day.
To keep things festive and in the spirit of team building, the players along with their spouses and girlfriends got together on Tuesday night to celebrate Thanksgiving. The team was able to use the time to further develop their bonds and not miss out on the annual feast since nearly everyone universally agrees that turkey would not be a great pre-game meal for Thursday’s tilt against the Gladiators.
Captain Joe Devin and Assistants Patrick Gaul and Trevor Gillies spent a few minutes with The Sin Bin to talk about hockey and Thanksgiving.
“To us it’s just another year. The fact that we have a game is a little different,” said Devin. “We’re never really with our family and things like that. We’re used to it. I haven’t been home for Thanksgiving since High School.”
“I haven’t had a Thanksgiving in my own house since I was 15,” said Gaul. “You have a different group of guys every year, it’s your secondary family and you spend so much time with them it only makes sense that you spend Thanksgiving with them.”
“It’s part of the job. As long as we get the two points it’ll be a good Thanksgiving.” Added Gillies. “We had our team thing last night and had a nice meal and some fellowship. We’ve already kind of celebrated. We had a really great time.”
With Thanksgiving in the middle of hockey season, players are most often away from home. Whether it is with a billet family in juniors, in college or even in the pros, being away from their families can be difficult for players. While it is most difficult for younger players, most adapt to the hockey life and accept that Thanksgiving and other holidays will mostly be spent with their on-ice family as their careers progress. Although away from family, lasting memories are still made.
“We were in North Dakota. Not a big and fancy place. It was very fitting for the team we had (at Notre Dame) that year. We were in this Mom and Pop place eating Thanksgiving dinner. It was North Dakota, so it was zero degrees outside and snow,” Gaul recalled. “Another was the year I broke my jaw. Thanksgiving was the second day after I was allowed to start eating food. I couldn’t chew anything but I was stuffing stuff into mashed potatoes, stuffing, cutting turkey up small. Whatever I could swallow whole. That was an interesting one for sure.”
“our entire team got together. Everyone made a different dish. It’s just great to get together as a group,” said Devin. “We don’t get to be together with our families so during the year, this is our family. So to get together and share a meal is something special.”
While this year’s Thanksgiving meal will be a traditional pre-game meal, the organization is trying to get something a little special for after the game according to the Voice of the Stingrays, Jared Shafran. The organization wants to make sure that even if the team is on the road that the players can enjoy some part of the holiday. Everyone has their favorite part of Thanksgiving and the players are no different. Gaul takes a more traditional route when talking about his favorite thing about Thanksgiving.
“It’s a good time of year for my family. You get to relax and take a step away from hockey and reflect on all that you have to be thankful for.”
Devin enjoys basking in the afterglow of a good meal.
“Sitting on the couch after you eat. We had so much food last night. I kind of over ate. Just sitting down after and relaxing. Enjoying the food coma.”
“It’s my wife’s favorite holiday, so we like to do it up with turkey or a ham, stuffing and all the fixings,” said Gillies. “Just all the family back home, mix it up with a couple buddies coming over for a couple of cocktails and just enjoy your family. A lot to be thankful for, being healthy, just enjoying the time with your family and your friends.”
This year, the Stingrays will be going up against the Atlanta Gladiators on Thanksgiving evening. It should prove to be a spirited re-match after the Rays stole a win last Sunday on Steven Whitney’s overtime penalty shot goal. Gillies will be out of the lineup for the re-match as he will be serving a three-game suspension for his aggressor penalty last Sunday.
From Atlanta, the Stingrays will travel to Orlando for their first two meetings of the year. The Solar Bears have recently gone through some personnel changes and look to right the ship down in Orlando. The Stingrays will look to continue their hot play and on Sunday enjoyed an outbreak of scoring from rookies Taylor Cammarata and Nick Roberto. The defensive corps will have some new faces as Tommy Hughes has been recalled to Hershey and Paul Geiger has been loaned to the Stingrays in a one-for-one swap with the Bears. Nick Neville will also be joining the Rays from the Peoria Rivermen of the SPHL as Marcus Perrier and Travis Walsh are out with injuries. Neville should be able to quickly adapt to the Rays as he suited up for South Carolina 18 times last year and is well versed in the Stingrays’ defensive schemes.