NHL Gets It Right by Giving Teams Christmas Off, Bruins Plan to Take Full Advantage of Time with Families

NHL Gets It Right by Giving Teams Christmas Off, Bruins Plan to Take Full Advantage of Time with FamiliesThe Bruins had reason to celebrate on Friday night, and not just because they rolled to an 8-0 win over Florida at the Garden.

That victory added a nice little boost to their holiday plans, but the real reason the Bruins were happy was for the three-day break this week that would allow them some much-needed downtime with their families over Christmas.

"Am I looking forward to Christmas? Absolutely," Bruins center Gregory Campbell said. "That's my favorite time of year. Our schedule works out. It's not often in the NHL where you have three days off around Christmas, so I get to go home and see the family, which is nice."

The NHL does always give its teams at least Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off, though, and that's something that the league deserves praise for. While sports fans may enjoy the chance to relax on the couch and watch NBA and NFL games or college football bowls after tearing open their presents and gorging themselves on turkey and ham, the NHL at least remembers that its players, coaches and other team personnel have families as well. And those people deserve a chance to enjoy their own presents and dinners, too.

The Bruins certainly have plans to do that this weekend, though they are taking different approaches to how to use their holiday break.

For some, like winger Brad Marchand, there truly is no place like home, and not even the prospect of fighting the crowds in the airport on Christmas Eve could dissuade him from getting back to his native Nova Scotia.

"Now it's just about trying to get home and spend time with the family," Marchand said. "Every year is different. Last year I only had like 16 hours at home. So it's always just nice to get home and spend any time you can with my family.

"I'll be leaving early on the 24th, so hopefully I'll have the whole Christmas Eve at home and then the following day, so that will be nice," Marchand added. "The airports will be packed, but it's only a quick, one-hour flight, so I'm still excited about going home."

Marchand planned an early start on Saturday, as the night before Christmas is the time for the biggest celebration in the Marchand clan.

"Christmas Eve is the big one for us," Marchand said. "I have a huge extended family and we all get together, hang out, have dinner and exchange gifts. That's definitely the most exciting part of getting home for Christmas."

Adam McQuaid has equally fond memories of Christmases, and Christmas Eves, back home on Prince Edward Island, but he wasn't going to risk trying to get back there for such a short break. Instead, his family was coming to join him in Boston, and bring a little bit of home to his adopted city.

"I'm going to stay here," McQuaid said. "My family is going to come down. It's tough when you only have a couple days. You're losing a day traveling and flying in and out of P.E.I. can be risky. There's only one airport and for the most part it's one plane in and one plane out, so if there's cancellations or anything anywhere, it doesn't even have to be there, it can affect a flight coming in. So I don't want to risk not getting back in time for the road trip."

McQuaid's parents, brother and sister were coming down to spend Christmas with him in Boston, which will make for a special holiday, though McQuaid will miss seeing the rest of his family.

"It would be nice to get home and be able to see my extended family too," McQuaid said. "But at least this way it's more relaxing. And when you go home you don't actually get to spend as much time with your family as you do when they come down here because you're running around trying to see as many people as you can, so you don't really get to spend any quality time with anyone in particular. This way we get to relax and spend some quality time together."

The McQuaid family Christmas back in P.E.I. was always filled with quality time together, creating plenty of cherished memories for the rugged bruins defenseman.

"I don't really have one thing that sticks out in my mind, but Christmas was always such a family event for us," McQuaid said. "We always got together with not just my immediate family, but with my whole extended family. I just remember having such a warm feeling and it felt like the world was exactly the way it was supposed to be. Everything was perfect. I can just remember the excitement of Santa coming. My family always went to church on Christmas Eve and then we'd go around and look at all the different lights in the neighborhoods and we'd get to open one gift before we went to bed. That was kind of our tradition."

The McQuaids own house didn't have cars lined up to look at the lights, but they did their part to make the season special.

"We put up lights, but we weren't by any means a house that people were making an effort to drive by or anything like that," McQuaid said, "but we always had enough lights up to show that we were in the spirit."

Campbell can relate. Despite the fact that several teammates cited him as one of the club's biggest fans of Christmas music, he wasn't willing to give a sample of his own take on any of the classics after practice earlier this week. But he wasn't offering any bah humbugs either.

"I'm not going to sing, but I do like Christmas carols," Campbell said. "Why not? For one month out of the year you might as well get into the spirit."

And that spirit is best shared in that irreplaceable family time around the holidays. Unlike other professional sports leagues, the NHL gets it right by letting its players do just that, and that's a real reason for the Bruins to celebrate this weekend.

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