Stastny a saint to Nik

Teammate takes care of his pal Xmas Day

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Gather ‘round, folks, for a holiday tale bound to make your heart grow three sizes.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/12/2021 (338 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Gather ‘round, folks, for a holiday tale bound to make your heart grow three sizes.

Although pandemic protocols prevented Nikolaj Ehlers from being with his own family for Christmas, the Winnipeg Jets forward was able to have a true taste of home courtesy of teammate Paul Stastny and his wife, Haley.

“It was great. He invited me after last game because I didn’t have any family over here, and with our schedule it wasn’t possible to go home,” Ehlers explained Sunday. “It was amazing. His family had some gifts for me and his wife made some Danish Christmas food. I played some soccer with the kids and some hockey. It was a great Christmas. For him to do that for me, that’s pretty special. It means a lot. It was a special Christmas for me.”

Nikolaj Ehlers spent a special Christmas with the Stastny family. (Jason Franson / The Canadian Press files)

Turns out Haley Stastny even called Ehlers’ mother back in Denmark to get some cooking tips.

“It’s these, they taste kind of like caramelized potatoes. It’s a lot of sugar and a lot of butter. And pork roast. So, for her, the family, to go that far for me, like I said before, it’s very special and it means a lot to me and I’ll be forever thankful for that,” said Ehlers.

Naturally, there was a gift exchange, and Ehlers joked that Stastny’s children have a new favourite player to cheer for.

“Some Ugg slippers that are amazing. Europeans like to wear something when you’re just at home, not walk around barefoot. Those are great,” said Ehlers.

“Last year was the first time I’d spent Christmas at home in six years, I think. So, I have spent Christmas over here by myself. It’s not as fun. My family has been to Chicago, my dad has come over a couple of times for, legit, 48 hours, because he had a coaching job in Switzerland, so like I said, to be able to be surrounded by people that you care about is special. That’s what the holidays are all about. So, for the Stastny family to do that for me, I mean, there’s no words for that.”

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Speaking of awwwww,Jets defenceman Josh Morrissey described his first Christmas with his four-legged pal, Ace. He and his fiancée, Margot, adopted the golden retriever puppy earlier this year.

“He’s getting pretty big. I think he’s like 82 pounds or something like that and I think he’s supposed to have another growth spurt. He’s been awesome for Margot and I. We both have had — I had dogs growing up, Margot had animals around the house. It’s the best, having Ace at home. No matter how good or bad I play or what you guys write about me, he’s always happy to see me and he can’t read so he doesn’t read it either,” said Morrissey.

“He’s learning slowly but he’s still a puppy so, with that big frame, he bumps into things here and there but he’s a lot of fun to have at home and it’s been great. His first Christmas was a success. No trees went down or anything like that so I’ll take that.”

● ● ●

Ehlers wasn’t as cheerful to discuss another topic on Sunday — the fact he will no longer be able to represent his country at the Winter Olympics.

NHL players will no longer be heading to Beijing in February, with the league instead citing a major disruption to its schedule due to COVID-19. Ehlers led Denmark to its first-ever berth during qualifying last summer, but now will be reduced to a spectator from afar. (His dad, Heinz, is the head coach of the men’s team).

“It’s heartbreaking,” said Ehlers.

“I was there, what is it, five years ago now when we tried to qualify in Belarus and we lost two out of the three games. We were sitting on that for four years until the next Olympic qualifications. So everyone chipped in this summer, like I told you guys. We had training camps starting five days after I got home after the season. I was on the ice with the Danish National Team. What it meant to go up there, play those games, and play in the red and white jerseys for my country – not a whole lot beats that. That’s a dream. Being able to represent Denmark at the Olympics is a dream too.”4

Ehlers said he’s been in a state of disbelief since the announcement was made last week.

“But I believe in those guys, every single guy that’s going deserves it. I love those guys. They’re like a family to me. I’m going to be their biggest fan cheering from Winnipeg,” he said.

● ● ●

The Jets have four young prospects competing in the World Juniors in Alberta. Cole Perfetti (Canada), Chaz Lucius (United States), Nikita Chibrikov (Russia) and Daniel Torgersson (Sweden). You can expect plenty of playful banter around the Jets, especially with players from all four of those nations currently on the roster.

“Nothing yet as far as I know for bets, but usually we’ll get that going when some of the important games start happening,” said Morrissey, who skated at the event for Canada in both 2014 and 2015.

“But I will definitely be watching the tournament. There are so many great memories for me growing up in Canada and watching the tournament live with my family, it was a real tradition in our house, and certainly obviously the memories of playing and winning as well. We will see what happens. Canada looks pretty good; I have my trust in Cole (Perfetti) to lead the boys and get another gold for us so I can gloat around the room as much as possible.”

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Sports columnist

Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.

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