By Beau Jensen, griffinshockey.com
Thanksgiving Day usually entails food, fun and football while in the company of family, but that’s not always the case for the Grand Rapids Griffins.
Three Griffins were tracked down the day before Thanksgiving to share some of their favorite memories as well as their beloved Turkey Day foods.
Goaltender Tom McCollum, a New York native, last spent the holiday at home in 2014 while the Griffins happened to be playing against the Rochester Americans the day before and after Thanksgiving. McCollum said then-head coach Jeff Blashill was kind enough to allow the netminder to make the 82-mile drive from Rochester to his hometown in Sanborn.
That was the only time in the past 12 years that McCollum was able to return home for Turkey Day, but that doesn’t mean the goalie hasn’t been able to spend the day with others that he cares about, such as equipment manager Brad Thompson.
“I’ll go to practice, and then after that I’m going to head over to Brad Thompson’s family’s house,” McCollum said. “Really, ever since I have played here, with the exception of the one year we were in Rochester, I’ve always gone to his house and had Thanksgiving with them.”
McCollum, after making sure to mention the food is always a plus, said the best part of Thanksgiving for him is being able to spend time with people that he really cares about, enjoying the comradery and being together.
When McCollum was a kid, one of his fondest memories was when the dust had settled in the kitchen and the last family member was finally done grabbing seconds, as his family used to play a Thanksgiving Day edition of Trivial Pursuit in the evening.
The final question posed to McCollum was who he suspected would pig out the most on a large, stomach-filling Thanksgiving meal, to which he answered defenseman Dan Renouf, the 23-year-old Ajax, Ontario native.
Rookie forward Dominik Shine, one of only two current Griffins born and raised in Michigan, said that even though he plays hockey in his native state, it’s not as easy as one may think to be able to return home for the holiday.
“It’s been a while, in juniors and in college you don’t really get Thanksgiving break because you’re usually playing, so I get to go home this year, which is really cool,” Shine said. “I’m going to go home for dinner and drive back up.”
When asked on Thanksgiving Eve, Shine, the Northern Michigan University graduate, said that he looks forward to seeing some of his family that he hasn’t seen in quite some time, such as his aunts, uncles and cousins. The Pinckney native couldn’t even remember the last time he had been with his whole family on Thanksgiving.
Other than watching the annual Detroit Lions game, Shine said that he loves diving into some mashed potatoes topped off with gravy on the big day.
When asked who he thought would devour a Thanksgiving meal the quickest, he gave Renouf’s familiar name.
Griffins forward Evgeny Svechnikov, in his fourth year in North America and second in the United States, spent Thanksgiving in 2016 in Muskegon, Mich., where his mother and brother were living. Evgeny’s younger brother, Andrei, was a member of the USHL’s Muskegon Lumberjacks at the time and he currently plays for the Barrie Colts of the OHL. The Russian Svechnikov crew were welcomed into the home of several close friends where they shared in a large dinner together.
“I’m a dessert guy, pumpkin cake, the pie, and of course I like the food,” Svechnikov said. “But the (Thanksgiving) atmosphere is just so cool, kind of cozy and felt like home.”
On a team with just seven American-born athletes, it goes to show that one doesn’t have to be a native of the U.S.A. to take part in the Thanksgiving festivities.