THE SMELL WAS THE FIRST THING that got me—an odd mixture of crock pot ham, scalloped potatoes and hotel cleaning supplies.
Hours earlier, I had spent the evening attempting to convince my daughter Sophia—8 years old at the time—that yes, the Easter bunny would find us, even in Canada.
That was the year Mr. Cottontail climbed up the ranks of holiday favorites, as he somehow managed to sneak into a strange hotel room, deliver a big basket of chocolate goodies and hide dozens of colored eggs in the hallways for egg hunts.
When you’re a hockey family during the holidays, you learn to create traditions on the fly.
We found a local church for services and then enjoyed that unconventional Easter buffet with the other families on our team. We didn’t allow hockey to usurp our time with family, friends or faith.
Hockey families are always on the go during the season, especially in November. The four-day holiday is typically a time when many families forgo the traditional turkey dinners for Thanksgiving tournaments.
While Oswego, N.Y., hockey mom Jackie Reilly has spent nearly every Thanksgiving at a tournament, they are still treasured times for her family.
“We have dinner Thursday and then off we go,” Reilly says. “Not one of us feels bad about it. Is that wrong? We are a hockey family through and through and our family and friends all know and expect that. I truly believe hockey has helped us to be more of a family.”
Syracuse Nationals hockey dad John Manzi agrees. His two boys have never complained about leaving home for any holiday.
“They absolutely love packing the car and taking those long journeys either to Boston or Canada,” he says. “The bond that takes place between any parent and son or daughter starts with those trips.”
Hilary Gorlin will always remember the high school tournament that fell during Hanukkah when she brought a Menorah to the hotel.
“To this day, it is a really special memory for me, bringing my team together to celebrate something that many of them didn’t know a lot about,” says the coach with the Rose City Hockey Club of Portland, Ore.
Sharing a holiday on the road requires some planning. You may want to consider booking hotel rooms with kitchenettes to allow you to prepare even a modest feast. Manzi suggests organizing a team dinner, rather than making separate reservations at restaurants. With a little planning, he says, you can make it feel—as much as possible—like a holiday that is celebrated at home.
“After all, hockey players and their parents are always one big family through the season,” Manzi says.
And as long as you’re surrounded by family, there’s no holiday road that can’t be enjoyed.
Christie Casciano Burns is a hockey mom in Syracuse, N.Y. She is also the author of two books, The Puck Hog and Haunted Hockey in Lake Placid.
Gene Krametbauer has been involved with hockey in Nevada long before the NHL came calling.
With the NHL granting an expansion franchise to Las Vegas, he is excited to see how the sport takes off in the future.
Gene started volunteering in Las Vegas more than 20 years ago when his son was 8 years old. And that passion still remains as he continues to be involved even though his son has grown up.
He started as an assistant coach, helping local teams with their travel arrangements. He eventually took over the role as president of Nevada Amateur Hockey Association, a position he held for 10 years.
Krametbauer is still involved as the chairman of the NAHA disciplinary board, a role he jokes is not one of the most coveted. He still enjoys being involved and remembers the impact playing hockey had on his son.
“Seeing all these kids grow up, it [hockey] gave them so much,” he says. “They have fond memories of their time in the game.”