Their Christmas vacation was extended by a day when Friday’s game game Ottawa was postponed because of the winter weather. They next gather Tuesday for a practice, ahead of playing Wednesday on the road against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Wings are 14-11-7 as they creep closer to the season’s midpoint. They managed to snap a six-game skid before going on the three-day NHL-wide break, celebrating a confidence-inducing, 7-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning, one of league’s elite teams.
Even as games ended in losses, coach Derek Lalonde largely was positive about performances.
“We went through a stretch where we were probably undermanned,” he said. “Maybe we weren’t even fielding a roster technically good enough to win. The are times we had holes in our game that were self-inflicted, and there are times we’ve had complete games.
“One thing I will say about this group, they’ve worked. They’ve had good will. They haven’t stepped off at all. For the most part, that’s the most enthusiastic, high-morale 0-4-2 stretch team I’ve ever experienced, and I think that’s a credit to the guys.”
With a nod to the holiday season, players shared why this is such a special time of year for them.
For Moritz Seider, Christmas Eve evokes memories of family time back in his native Germany.
“We all would go for a walk on the 24th at night, and then when we come back, Santa would be there with all the gifts under the Christmas tree,” he said. “We would go before dinner, after coffee. We’d have a big walk together and come back and the tree was really precious and stunning.”
Oskar Sundqvist also has warm memories of growing up in northern Sweden.
“At my grandparents cabin, about an hour north of the Arctic circle, we would take the snowmobiles out and have a Swedish fika out on the lake,” he said. “That was always fun. We’d have coffee and Cinnabons. Sometimes we dug a hole and did some ice fishing, too. It was a full day out on the lake."
What does Seider watch when he’s at home for Christmas now? “'Home Alone,' that’s one of the good ones,” he said. “That never gets old for me.”
Alex Nedeljkovic turns to a Dr. Seuss holiday classic. "Maybe my favorite Christmas movie is the Grinch," he said. "The Jim Carrey one, because he is the man."
Jonatan Berggren is grateful he can stream a Swedish comedy for comfort and joy.
“It’s called 'Svensson Svensson,'” he said. “It’s really good. It’s a comedy. Every Christmas at 10 p.m. I watch it, and I will continue to do that this year, too.”
Whereas Mickey Mouse is the king of Disney in the U.S., in Sweden, it's Donald Duck — or as he's known there, Kalle Anka.
"In Sweden we always watch Donald Duck before Christmas dinner," Elmer Söderblom said. "You watch it with family and friends and it’s just a chance to be close to the ones you love and have a great time."
Jake Walman took a chance on a romantic comedy from 2006. “I watched 'The Holiday' this year,” he said. “That was pretty good. I think I will start watching that. And make Cinnabons.”
Walman explained how he celebrates this time of year.
“My mom grew up Christian, Catholic, and my dad’s side of the family grew up Jewish. I consider myself Jewish, but our Christmas tree is like a leaf-less birch tree with lights, so it’s pretty cool. Then we have eight days of Hanukkah, and you are supposed to open up a present every day. We light one candle every night, so that’s pretty much what we do with the family.”
Eat, drink & be merry
Dylan Larkin enjoys being off this time of year because it means he can partake in family tradition.
"We always do the same thing — we go to church and then to dinner Christmas Eve," he said. "On Christmas Day, we have a big family party with extended friends. It’s kind of changed now that everyone is able to enjoy the day, can legally have a couple drinks. There are some fun games we play. It’s a fun day."
Larkin has the good fortune to be from the metro area, putting him within easy reach of his family. Pius Suter's family is in his native Switzerland — so for him, this time of year is more about the memory of his father's cooking.
"We would always have Fondue Chinoise," he said. "That’s our Christmas dinner."
A savory dinner tradition is also what makes Ville Husso sentimental.
"In Finland we had Christmas ham, but here in the U.S., you can’t really get it, so we just do like a turkey or something like that, he said. "But that ham, that is what I miss the most. It’s a traditional Finnish dish — it’s in the oven for a long time, then you put a little mustard on top. It’s a Finnish Christmas food and I’ve always liked it."
The most wonderful time of the year
For Jakub Vrana, who recently rejoined his hockey family after spending two months in the players assistance program, his immediate family is back in his native Czech Republic, so phone calls and video calls were on the menu over the weekend. So was walking around Campus Martius Park with his girlfriend and drinking hot chocolate.
"What I like about Christmas is, it brings people together.," Vrana said. "That’s why they say it is the best time of the year. Family being with each other, that is the most important thing. It's nice."
Contact Helene St. James at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her latest book, “On the Clock: Behind the Scenes with the Detroit Red Wings at the NHL Draft,” is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.
Next up: Penguins
Matchup: Red Wings (14-11-7) at Pittsburgh (19-9-5).
Faceoff: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday; PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh.
TV/radio: Bally Sports Detroit; WXYT-FM (97.1).
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Red Wings reveal Christmas, Hanukkah memories past and present