To a number of people, Christmas is a religious holy day. To many others, it’s a family holiday. To virtually everyone in North America, the Christmas season is a special time of the year. There is excitement in the air and people exchange sincere greetings to each other. As a Jewish friend of mine put it, the true spirit of the Christmas season, “peace on earth and good will to all men” is fundamental to all loving people regardless of religious belief.
In this spirit, I would like to extend Christmas greetings to all members of the hockey community, but especially to:
All of the equipment managers and dressing room staffs in hockey.
You people continually amaze me with your ability to show “grace under pressure” in your daily routines. Is there more tension in hockey than when a star player loses an edge on his skate in the third period? Perhaps the only situation that can match it is when the visiting team’s bus is scheduled to leave the arena 45 minutes after the final buzzer. All of you deserve a relaxing holiday with your families.
All of the people involved with team travel.
No people in the game take more abuse than team travel coordinators when buses do not arrive at the airports of strange cities at the scheduled time in the middle of the night. Staff on the charter flights work efficiently when losing team members grumpily place immediate demands on you. Hotel workers find extra rooms in sold out hotels at 3:00 a.m. when arriving teams suddenly want to change their registrations. All of you deserve a festive holiday with loved ones who present no last minute demands.
To my fellow scouts on all teams.
You are the true road warriors of hockey. You make your own travel arrangements, you simply grit your teeth and persevere through inclement conditions and you become the representatives of your respective teams to large parts of the hockey world. All of you merit some quiet time at home at Christmas to recharge your batteries before the holiday tournaments.
To the medical staffs on all of the teams.
Many of you place yourselves in positions of pressure for far less compensation than you receive in your normal practice. The demands of players and teams to get players back into big games collide with requirements from the league concerning injuries and your own professional judgment. You are often in impossible situations and deserve the Christmas season to get away from the pressure.
To members of the office staffs, overwhelmingly females or young males.
You work long and often irregular hours without executive-level pay. You are the people who provide the oil that keeps the business of hockey lubricated. Whenever last minute crises develop, you are often called to extinguish the fires, quickly and with no questions asked. They say that no man is a hero to his butler. You are all fully aware of the warts of all hockey executives, but you are their most loyal supporters. Enjoy the fellowship of your loved ones during this Christmas season.
To the members of the Boogaard, Rypien, Belak and McCrimmon families.
May you find peace and tranquility with your loved ones and gain solace in the fellowship of the hockey community that grieves with you.
Finally, to all hockey fans and all those who earn their living from our great sport.
Take time to celebrate Christmas with loved ones. Enjoy the time that may be limited to appreciate our relationships with those people who often make it possible for us to pursue our passion for the game. At the same time, take time to appreciate and respect the game and the role it plays in our lives. Many of us owe personal relationships, our livelihoods and many hours of happiness to hockey. The game has become part of our personal culture and, certainly in the case of Canada, our national identity.
Our aggressive and rugged sport has created a tight-knit community that can look for help from each other when times get tough. Let us celebrate our place in the community this week and all year round in the true spirit of Christmas – peace on earth and good will towards all men. Let me conclude with the words of one of the most important symbols of the season: “Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.”
Tom Thompson worked as head scout for the Minnesota Wild from 1999-2001 and was promoted to assistant GM in 2002, a post he held until 2010. He has also worked as a scout for the Calgary Flames, where he earned a Stanley Cup ring in 1989. He currently works as a scout for the New York Rangers. He will be writing his Insider Column regularly for THN.com throughout this season.