Friday, December 26, 2014

How do Flyers celebrate Thanksgiving?

How do 23 hockey players, mostly from foreign countries, celebrate a purely American holiday?

How do Flyers celebrate Thanksgiving?

Jakub Voracek and other foreign Flyers have their own Thanksgiving celebrations. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Jakub Voracek and other foreign Flyers have their own Thanksgiving celebrations. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

TAMPA, Fla. -- Family. Turkey. Football. 

Thanksgiving is purely American.

But what does that mean for a group of 23 mostly foreign hockey players now living in Philadelphia? Only two Flyers, Adam Hall and Hal Gill, are American.

For most Flyers, the day off will mean time spent with family - even if they don’t have children of their own.

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“We don’t have a holiday like Thanksgiving in the Czech Republic,” Jake Voracek said, who has been living in the U.S. since 2008. “My parents are coming over from the Czech Republic and we will have a big dinner at my house. My mom will make a traditional Czech food. My girlfriend is from the U.S., so we will have a turkey and all of the regular things.”

It’s perfect timing for Voracek, too, since the Winnipeg Jets are in town. He will have old Czech friends and current Jets Ondrej Pavelec and Michael Frolik over to his house to share in the festivities. The Flyers host Winnipeg in their annual Black Friday game at 11:30 a.m. - a new, earlier time.

Canadians still celebrate by watching NFL football, but they celebrated their Thanksgiving on Monday, Oct. 14 - the same day as Columbus Day in the States.

There are 14 Canadians on the Flyers’ 23-man roster, but most still partake in our bonus holiday, too. A couple years back, Scott Hartnell and Ray Emery walked to City Tavern on 2nd Street in Old City for a truly traditional American Thanksgiving meal with a few former teammates.

“This year, I celebrated in October and I had a couple of the guys over,” Hartnell said. “We had a little bird, some Stovetop stuffing, all that good stuff. I don’t cook a lot, but I can cook a turkey.”

Hartnell wasn't sure what he was doing this year, he said on Tuesday. 

Even for the Europeans on the Flyers’ roster, celebrating Thanksgiving has been one of their favorite American traditions to adopt.

“I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to a few different friends houses every year and you can tell that it is a big thing,” Nick Grossmann said. “I think it’s a real nice tradition, something that I’ve enjoyed watching. You eat a great meal, you don’t need to exchange gifts or anything, you relax, and there is lots of time with family. You can’t beat that. We don’t have anything like that in Sweden.”

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Frequent Flyers is your home for news and analysis of all things orange and black. Reach Frank at seravaf@phillynews.com.

Frank Seravalli Daily News Staff Writer
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