Last season, the Carolina Hurricanes had a home game and a road game sandwiched around the US Thanksgiving holiday such that players and coaches probably had a somewhat regular family gathering on Thursday in the midst of a busy hockey weekend.
The 2016-17 NHL schedule sees the Hurricanes on the road this week and actually playing on Thanksgiving night in Montreal after playing in Toronto on Tuesday. The result is a Thanksgiving lunch as a team.
As a leading source of Carolina Hurricanes news (if that doesn’t tip off your sarcasm sensor, you might want to have it checked), Canes and Coffee was granted exclusive coverage of the team’s Thanksgiving lunch (second check to make sure your sarcasm sensor is working).
Here is how it went down…
Failure to start on time
With puck drop at 7:30pm, Thanksgiving was scheduled for a 12pm lunch, but by 12:10 only a handful of players had arrived at the banquet room where the event was to be held. Things were not going well. In seeing the lack of attendance, Coach Bill Peters was not happy. He immediately summoned assistant coach Rod Brind’Amour and started barking.
Peters: “Where is everyone? If I have done nothing in the past 2+ seasons, have I not at least made clear the importance of starting on time?”
Brind’Amour: “With no morning skate, I fear that many players are already started into their afternoon nap and missed the 12pm start.”
Peters: “That is unacceptable. Who is the captain? We need the captain to rally the troops?”
Brind’Amour: “We don’t have a captain. Remember?”
Just then a Montreal reporter wanders into the room upon hearing Bill Peters loud, angry voice and also notices that the team gathering looks a little sparse. He immediately starts writing…”Hurricanes coach Bill Peters frustrated tone at team lunch combined with lack of attendance by owner Peter Karmanos certainly means that a move of the Carolina Hurricanes to Quebec City is imminent.”
Victor Rask who was lurking near the buffet table suddenly perks up at the mention of the word “captain” and steps into the conversation.
Rask (in his usual animated and jovial voice from interviews): “Are you looking for a captain? I might be able to help with that.”
Peters stomps off and Rod Brind’Amour and Victor Rask head off to try to find the players.
The seating debacle
By about 12:45pm, a bedraggled collection of players, many of whom had been woken from naps, had assembled. Not unlike family gatherings across the United States, there was some amount of lack of cooperation, especially with formality, from some of the kids. All of Noah Hanifin, Sebastian Aho, Teuvo Teravainen and Elias Lindholm had arrived half-awake and still in pajamas.
At this point, Bill Peters was ready to get on with it and tried to hurry things along, but there were a couple problems.
First, it quickly became clear as the group assembled at the table that there were not enough seats. Second, maybe because it was a game day, there was no wine or other interesting beverages, just pitchers of water. Finally, there was the issue of protocol for who would carve the turkey to get things going.
First there was the order of seating. The large table assembled to hold the team was short by 4-5 seats. A few players looked on trying to brainstorm a solution while a few others went into hockey mode. What ensued next was some odd combination of musical chairs and hockey checks as everyone started to jostle for seats all at once. When the dust settled, the fourth line had grinded their way to 3 seats, the AHL contingent stuck together and won space at the back corner and various other groups had successfully won seats.
Just as the winner takes all battle to win seats at the Hurricanes Thanksgiving lunch seemed to be winding down, elder statesman Ron Hainsey piped up.
Hainsey: ” Whooahhh! Ease up fellas. We have a game tonight. How many seats are we short?”
Jay McClement (as many players look puzzled at Michael Leighton): “Who is he?”
Group of McGinn, Tennyson and Ryan seated at the far end of the table: “Hey Michael. We saved a seat for you.”
Standing up and assessing the chair count and situation, Ron Hainsey whistled to get everyone’s attention.
Hainsey (pointing to a small round table in the corner of the room): “All of you kids in pajamas…The kids table is over there.”
Sebastian Aho and Elias Lindholm sheepishly got up and start proceeding to the small table in the corner of the dining room followed by Teuvo Teravainen. That left the group trying to figure out who else to banish to the kids’ table.
McClement (assessing the options): “Jaccob, you’re a young guy.”
Pesce (sitting next to Slavin and stepping up for his partner): “He’s married. You can’t make a married guy sit at the kids’ table.”
McClement: “Well how about you then?”
Slavin: “Brett and I eat together. If he goes, I go.”
McClement: “That won’t work. There are only 4 seats over there which will set off round 2 of musical chairs.”
Hanifin (to himself looking down at his phone): “I just cleared another level.”
McClement: “That settles it. And hey, you’re one of the pajama group.”
Hanifin (looking up from his game and seeing Lindholm and Aho waving mutters to himself: “Looks like more fun anyway.”
With seating finally settled, Bill Peters regained his composure and called things to order.
Who carves the turkey?
Peters: “I am thankful that we are here together today and to have all of you as part of our hockey team. I have yet to host a team Thanksgiving lunch as a head coach, so I am not sure exactly how we do this…”
Stempniak (interrupting): “Well. One year in Toronto we…A different year with the Blues organization…In Pittsburgh one year…Calgary…New York…”
Seeing many of the players in pajamas starting to doze off as Lee Stempniak’s NHL Thanksgiving meal verbal history pushed to teams #8 and #9, Bill Peters interrupted.
Peters: “I would like for one of the players to take the honors of carving the turkey.”
That set off another fire storm not much unlike the game of hip check musical chairs.
Victor Rask immediately piped up with, “I believe you said I would be named the captain. I think the captain should carve the turkey.”
At this point, Justin Faulk and Jordan Staal rose up out of their seats with looks of anger.
Faulk: “Who made you captain? And this is US Thanksgiving – needs to be a US born player.”
Staal: ” I agree with Victor. It should be the captain regardless of nationality.”
Next, utter chaos ensued. Cam Ward staked a claim to turkey carving as the longest-tenured Hurricane player. Ron Hainsey made a claim based on being the elder statesman of the team. Seeing that they might have numbers over a growing number of individual and small factions, the AHL contingent suggested that a vote might be in order and nominated Derek Ryan. At that point, the kids’ table selected Noah Hanifin as its nominee as he won a quick game of rock/paper/scissors only because the game is not as popular in Nordic countries apparently.
A murmur rose as various factions worked to promote a candidate. Just as things were spiraling out of control, Rod Brind’Amour stood up.
Brind’Amour: “Stop! I agree that it should be the captain.”
This started all of Jeff Skinner, Jordan Staal, Justin Faulk and Victor Rask leaning forward thinking that right here and now Rod Brind’Amour was going to pass the ‘C’ and name the team’s next captain.
Brind’Amour: “…And with no NHL captain, we will instead need to go with the highest captain which is Derek Ryan who was the Charlotte Checkers captain before being called up to the NHL.”
This of course prompted an initial roar followed by “Derek! Derek! Derek!” from the AHL group.
Hainsey (thoughtfully considering the logic of this decision and looking thoughtfully): “Makes sense. Can we finally just eat.”
The toast – Sponsored of course by Kinetico Water
Peters: “Let’s eat. But first a toast…”
This had players looking around for wine or some other interesting beverage. To their dismay, the tables had only giant pitchers of water.
Skinner: “Hey coach, where’s the drinks?”
Ward (piping up): “I know where I can get us some wine.”
Peters: “Water. There will only be water.”
This caused a few grumbles, but it died quickly as everyone was starving and ready to eat.
The dinner itself
Even the dinner itself took on a Carolina Hurricanes hockey flair. The large table and the challenge of getting food from one place to another created some interesting scenarios.
In addition to turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes and other traditional Thanksgiving foods, the sponsors required that Bojangles’ Boberry biscuits, Moe’s queso and McDonald’s coffee also be served. The kids’ table found the queso hilarious and intermittently chided Justin Faulk with “Queso! Queso! Queso!”
Rod Brind’Amour seized a giant bowl of sweet potatoes and held the scooping spoon over it fending off anyone who tried to scoop some yelling out “I still got it! Can’t beat me in the dot!” every time someone unsuccessfully tried to get some.
At one point Cam Ward asked someone to pass a roll from the bowl that had moved to the kids’ table. Lindholm’s pass flew right over Ward’s left shoulder to goalie coach David Marcoux who did not seem surprised by the event.
Lindholm was overjoyed by beating Ward until Viktor Stalberg snarkily pointed out that that now makes twice in the past 2 months that Lindholm had beaten an NHL goalie.
Just like at Thanksgiving meals across the United States, the festivities wrapped up when the kids got rowdy and the wine was gone which was really early since they did not have any to start with.
Hope all Caniacs enjoyed Thanksgiving with family and friends and were able to sneak away to watch the rare Canes game on Thanksgiving day.