NEW YORK — Walk around the Flyers’ locker room and ask the players about Thanksgiving and they say it’s a time to give thanks for the opportunity to play a kid’s game for a great living, a time to give thanks for their families.
Jake Voracek, the right winger who entered Wednesday tied for sixth in the NHL with 26 points, is especially thankful that his 41-year-old sister, Petra, is holding her own in her battle with multiple sclerosis, a chronic neurological condition that affects the central nervous system. She was diagnosed with MS in 2015.
“Obviously, it’s complicated,” Voracek said the other night. “It’s something she has to live with, but we got lucky that the doctor caught it [early] and it’s manageable and she can live a normal life so far.”
He has created the Jake Voracek Foundation, which his sister helps run. Voracek donates $1,000 to the foundation for each point he collects.
His sister and her husband and two children live in the Czech Republic.
“She puts a lot of work into the foundation and tries to help other people,” Voracek said proudly, adding he feels rewarded when he receives emails from MS patients who thank him for helping them get a new medication.
Most of the Flyers are Canadians, and their Thanksgiving was celebrated on Oct. 9 this year.
But the players feel Americanized, and they will have a big dinner Thursday and watch a little football.
“Any time you can eat a turkey, I celebrate,” right winger Wayne Simmonds cracked.
Simmonds and his fiancee will have some of the team’s young players over their Haddonfield house for a homemade turkey dinner.
He cooks the turkey, his fianceé makes the side dishes.
“It’s a holiday and you want to make it feel like a holiday, right?” he said.
“It’s obviously a little bigger holiday down here,” said Flyers rookie defenseman Travis Sanheim, another Canadian. “But being here, we do celebrate and get together with some of the guys and have a good dinner that night.”
Center Scott Laughton and his dad, Craig, who is in town early because of the upcoming father-son trip to Pittsburgh, might head to a restaurant Thursday for a Thanksgiving dinner.
“I’m thankful for a ton of things – my family, foremost, and the way they support me and the way they come down,” Laughton said. “And to be able to do what you love every day, it’s pretty special to be in the NHL and be an NHL player.”
Just because it’s a holiday doesn’t mean the Flyers will have the day off.
“We’ll get some work done in the morning; it’s a fact of the business,” coach Dave Hakstol said of meetings [and perhaps a light skate] Thursday at their Voorhees practice facility. “We’ll have the players here for as short a period of time as possible for them to be ready to play the next day.”
Hakstol said Thanksgiving “starts with family. Sometimes it’s limited [because of his schedule] on the holidays, but it’s still quality family time.”
On Thursday, Hakstol said he will “take a step back” and “remember how fortunate you are for family, friends, and opportunities that are provided in this country by so many people.”