No matter how hard he may try, Winnipeg Jets head coach Claude Noel won't exactly have visions of sugar plums dancing through his head during the NHL's Christmas 'break.'
"There's no such thing as getting totally away from hockey," said Noel when asked Friday what he had planned during the two days off before the team returns to work on Boxing Day.
"It just doesn't happen. You might not be at the rink, but your head's always buried in your team. That's the way it goes, you're on for nine months. You try and let the mind go free a bit... we'll see if we can do that.
"I'm not going anywhere. I'm going to the couch. If you call me I'll be right there -- painted on the couch."
Unlike their boss, several Jets were planning to take advantage of the two-day Christmas break before they return to the ice on Dec. 26 for a practice at the MTS Centre and then head to Denver for a game against the Colorado Avalanche a day later.
Tim Stapleton was booked on the first flight out to his hometown of Chicago on Christmas Eve. Tanner Glass and his wife were heading out on the highway to his home just outside of Craven, Sask., and then planning on driving back later on Christmas Day.
"I can't wait," Glass said. "We've got my dad's side on Christmas eve and my mom's side on Christmas Day, both at our house."
Asked if he was involved at all in preparing the Christmas feast, Glass cracked: "No. I just show up and bring my smile with me and I'm good."
Such is the life of an NHLer, where the Christmas holidays are measured in hours, not days.
"My wife's family is coming in from Michigan on the 26th and my family later in the year," said Chris Thorburn. "It's a bit of a break... I mean, two days in hockey is a lot of time off, believe it or not."
"It's amazing," added Glass. "You go into the airport on Christmas Day, and I've been there a few times, and half the flight is hockey players... especially being from Regina. We'd always have to go to Minneapolis and then disperse from there to the States. Honestly, you'd see 15-20 hockey players. Even if you don't know them, there's a nod, a hi and the 'Merry Christmas' kind of thing."
Alex Burmistrov opted to have his parents bring Christmas here as they are visiting from Kazan, Russia until the middle of next month.
Mark Stuart planned to just hang out and relax here in Winnipeg, as did a number of other players.
And Tobias Enstrom will take advantage of an invite from a fellow Swede and former Jet.
"I'll probably hang out with a few guys on the team and invite them over for dinner," said Enstrom. "And Thomas Steen is here in town so I'll probably go over to (their house) and spend a little bit of a Swedish Christmas with them. It's just going to be nice to have two days off and recharge everything for the games coming up after Christmas."
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