Talkin' turkey

Devils reflect on family and tradition at Thanksgiving

Wednesday, 11.25.2009 / 6:42 PM ET / Features
By Eric Marin
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Talkin\' turkey
Mottau looked forward to visiting family with the Devils headed to Boston on Thanksgiving.
It’s Thanksgiving week, and the Devils have plenty to be thankful for. They have overcome injuries to a half-dozen of their regulars and recorded the League’s longest winning streak this season, while setting a franchise record earlier this month with a 9-0 road start.

The Devils were scheduled to practice Thursday before heading to Boston, where they face the Bruins Friday at noon.

Mike Mottau, a Boston native, plans on stopping by his parents’ house for the Thanksgiving holiday. He said his mother’s sweet potato casserole is as good as it gets.  

“There’s 13 grandkids under the age of eight. It’s going to be a madhouse,” said Mottau, who has a brother and two sisters. “They all have a bunch of kids. It’s always a fun time getting together."

Having three children of his own has made the third-year blueliner grateful for all of his parents’ hard work.

“As I get a little older and have my own family, you appreciate what your parents went through,” Mottau said. “The sacrifices they made for how you turned out. It’s pretty impressive when you really think about it. It makes it a little more real when you have to do it yourself.”
Brian Rolston, who hails from Flint, Mich., said family is everyone’s priority at this time of year.

“I’m very thankful I’ve been able to play this long in the League,” said the 15-year vet. “For the most part, I’ve stayed healthy. I’m thankful for that and to still be playing, really. But first and foremost, your family comes first before that.”

Head coach Jacques Lemaire joked he was thankful to be injury-free. New Jersey had lost 82 man-games to injury entering Wednesday’s meeting with Ottawa. Lemaire then focused on family, explaining how the demanding life of an NHL player can be a challenge at home.
“More you grow older, the more you think about it, too,” Lemaire said. “Because there’s a time you’re young, you get the kids and maybe less today, but in our days, it was hockey – hockey was first. Family was second. Now it changed. We know how we missed it. You wake up one day and your kids are 30 years old. Now you’re doing with your grandchild what you wish you would have done more with your kids.

“But we had only the summer. That’s why summer was always for the family, and winter was hockey. That was our life. I was like that. In the summer, I used to water ski with the kids. We had a little boat and they were driving it. All kinds of toys, just the whole summer. Then in the winter, ‘You go to school, and I’m going to work.’ Even though, they were asked, ‘What’s your dad doing?’ ‘He doesn’t do anything, he just plays hockey.’”

Zach Parise said the players would get together Thursday night for a meal featuring Thanksgiving staples like turkey and mashed potatoes. The Devils’ leading scorer (13 goals and 14 assists through 21 games) has already had a six-game goal-scoring streak this year, but Parise said he values more personal things on the holiday.

“It’s more of a family time,” he said.

Parise brought up the U.S.-Canada split in the Devils’ locker room, and pointed out that Canadians have their Thanksgiving on a different day.

Canadians, in fact, celebrate Thanksgiving on the second Monday of October, but Andrew Peters, the native of St. Catharines, Ontario, didn’t have an explanation as to why. He did, however, have a theory.

“The Pilgrims landed in Canada before they landed at Plymouth Rock,” Peters said, before coming clean. “I’m just joking, I don’t know if that’s why. But you know what, it’d be a heck of an answer on Hollywood Squares.”

(According to Wikipedia, Canadian Thanksgiving can be traced back to explorer English Martin Frobisher, who, in 1578, celebrated a successful return from his quest to find a northern passage to the Pacific Ocean.)

The American and Canadian Thanksgiving holidays may not share the same date, but they do share the same traditional turkey and side dishes. When it comes to his favorite sides, Peters said he’s partial to mom’s cooking.

“My mom’s stuffing mixed with mashed potatoes and gravy,” he said. ““It’s not the Stove-Top stuff; this is the real deal. This isn’t Boston Market.”

David Clarkson said that while there’s nothing like his own mother’s stuffing, he has a place in his heart for Boston Market.

“When I played in Lowell, I used to love Boston Market,” he said. “There used to be one right outside my house.”

“Mediocre, at best,” Peters chimed in.

Across the Devils’ practice locker room, rookies Mark Fraser and Matt Halischuk had their own takes on what has to be on the table.

“Cranberry sauce, although maybe it’s not really a side dish,” Halischuk said.

“Gross,” came the reply from Fraser. “Whipped mashed potatoes, but with gravy though.”

While not a fan of cranberries, Fraser didn’t seem put off by Peters’ potato/stuffing mash-up.

“Everything’s touching everything on the plate,” he said. “But mashed potatoes with dark Canadian gravy.”

Canadian gravy?

“Our turkeys are a little bit better, I guess, when you mix in the juices,” he explained.

Of course, no Thanksgiving would be complete without the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, held each year in Manhattan. Just like an argument over whose mom makes the best sweet potatoes, a discussion of the parade’s balloons whipped up disagreement on which was best.

“Buzz Lightyear,” said Rolston. “I’m into Toy Story – I love Toy Story. There’s going to be a Toy Story 3 coming out next year, so I’m excited for that. Obviously, I have children so that’s why I’m into it. You go to Disney and it’s packed with Toy Story stuff. He’s cool.”

“Shrek,” Peters said. “100 percent, Shrek.”

“I’ll answer Shrek, because he overcomes a lot,” Clarkson agreed, as Peters rolled his eyes. “He’s like the underdog, so that’s why I like Shrek. In the end he shows that he’s not a bad guy. Everyone has him framed as this bad guy, this ogre, and he’s really wasn’t like that.”

Fraser, too, went green.

“Shrek only because I think he’s more of an icon,” he said. “But he’s no Woody Woodpecker. I would also say Woody, but that’s also a Seinfeld reference.”

Halischuk ended the parade debate, altogether.

“I’m more of a float guy anyway,” he said.