Sunday, March 3, 2024

Christmas abroad: good wishes from Russia

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Virginia Whitehead
Virginia Whitehead
"Pop culture maven. Unapologetic student. Avid introvert. Gamer. Problem solver. Tv fanatic."

They all fulfilled their dreams. Their passion for running on the ski slopes at speeds of more than 100 km/h became their profession. Their good knowledge of hockey has led their teams to the most prestigious awards. Or they’ll dress up as Team Canada to play in the most prestigious junior hockey tournament.

But these dreams do not come without sacrifices. Away from their families for several months, these athletes and coaches will once again this year celebrate “the most beautiful night in the world” thousands of kilometers from their homes.

For the fourth year, Bob Hartley will celebrate the holidays in Russia, about 7,000 kilometers away from his family. But despite the distance, the head coach could see his granddaughters’ eyes light up as they unwrapped their gifts. On December 25th every year, he spends 1-2 hours on FaceTime to participate in the famous giveaway.

Among these, it is clear that we find games typical of the country adopted by Hartley.

Russian dolls, of course, but also Masha, the cartoon girl Masha and the Bear. Slavic Barbie, which has quickly become a favorite of her 2- and 3-year-old granddaughters, especially the eldest, boasts a smile in her voice.

“During my career, I have missed a lot of events, he admits. From graduation, Concerts. But this doesn’t just happen in hockey. Of course I would love to be there, especially now that I’m a grandfather, but I talk to them two to three times a day, every day. “

“And spending an hour or two on FaceTime at Christmas, it’s like I’m right there, without the ‘glue’ and the kisses!” I live it the best I can. “

Alone at Christmas

Hartley knew all too well what he was getting into when he accepted the position as Omsk Avangard coach in 2018. He knew he wouldn’t see his family very often. Last year, due to the pandemic, he was not with his relatives for 11 months.

And even if his wife Micheline comes to join him in Russia this year, she will still be away from him during the holidays.

Instead, she will celebrate with her two children and grandchildren in Florida, a central place for this family spread across North America, and even the world over.

On the way to Helsinki

Hartley was also aware that the KHL calendar, which doesn’t break at Christmas – the Russians celebrate on January 1st instead – would deprive him of precious moments with those close to him.

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This year, Hartley will celebrate Christmas on his way to Finland. Avangard meets Jokerit in Helsinki on December 26.

“Even if the league took a two-day break at Christmas, that would be the time it took me to get back to my family,” Hartley says.

“So when we’re not traveling, we stay in the apartment and talk to our families.”

Stretching people into the Kremlin

Except for his year. partner Forever”, ex-Scandinavian Jacques Clutter, went to celebrate 1is being January amid a wave of people in Moscow’s Red Square, where the Kremlin is located.

“We wanted to experience it once in our lifetime,” he says. We went for dinner and then stayed all evening. There are all kinds of festivities, not just fireworks: circuses, acrobats, singers. It’s incredible! “

“There are so many people out there, it probably took an hour to go 100 feet. But the people are very nice and there is a lot of security. I’ve never been to New York on New Year’s Day, but it should look like this.”

A Christmas dream with Junior Team Canada

The players who will wear the colors of Team Canada in the coming days have been dreaming since their childhood of spending at least one birthday away from their homeland at the World Junior Hockey Championship, which takes place every year during the holiday season.

“I don’t think we could be in a better seat during the holidays! Elliott Desnoyers launches. Of course we won’t be home, but it would be exceptional to be able to spend that time with the team.”

“Every year, I’d watch it in my living room with my family, but there, I’m in the entourage of the team. It’s really special. Even a few days after my pick, I’m still on cloud nine,” adds Xavier Borgolt.

The two strikers aren’t sure what it will be like for Christmas Eve around Junior Canada in Edmonton. The players will face the ice from December 26 to face the Czech Republic in the late afternoon. “We’ve been treated really well here since we arrived,” says Burgolt. I think we will have a team dinner and gifts. “

santa is here

Kaiden Guhle, he can confirm. Canadian Prospects, named Captain Canada, is his second appearance in the tournament.

“Of course, it’s easy not to be with us at Christmas, but we all make the dream come true. They organize us a meal. Last year, on New Year’s Eve, we had a traditional turkey dinner.”

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“One of the members of the organization was also dressed as Santa Claus,” he continues. We would sit on it and he would give us gifts. They did a really great job of giving us Christmas. “

And this year – unless the health situation changes – parents will be able to attend their fans’ matches.

“My parents will be there towards the end of the tournament,” Burgolt explains. For now, I still try to talk to them a lot, even if the days are busy. “

Food fights, Christmas markets and FaceTime

Alpine Ski Team members celebrate the holidays in an apartment in Europe

The alpine ski team was invited to dinner with Elka Stohic (bottom right), a snowboarder from Slovenia.  Pictured: Marie-Michel Gagnon, Lawrence Saint-Germain, Irene Melczynski, Ronnie Remy, Valerie Grenier plus Stohk's mother and brother.

photo courtesy

The alpine ski team was invited to dinner with Elka Stohic (bottom right), a snowboarder from Slovenia. Pictured: Marie-Michel Gagnon, Lawrence Saint-Germain, Irene Melczynski, Ronnie Remy, Valerie Grenier plus Stohk’s mother and brother.

Lawrence Saint-Germain and Valerie Grenier knew from their beginnings with the Canadian alpine ski team that their love of the mountains and their speed would lead them to spend Christmas in Europe year after year.

The calendar of the International Ski Federation has been developed. This season, Lawrence Saint-Germain will compete in the slalom slalom Linz in Austria at the end of December.

Since other World Cup competitions are held on the Old Continent earlier in December, it is difficult for the skier from Saint-Ferréol-les-Neiges to return home for the holidays with her family.

But over the years, the girls on the alpine ski team have learned to celebrate Christmas with their “second family.”

“Usually, our coaches find us apartments in Italy or Austria so that we can spend time together during the holidays,” says Saint-Germain.

“small parties”

Valerie Grenier, Lawrence Saint-Germain and Irene Melczynski decorate birthday cakes.

photo courtesy

Valerie Grenier, Lawrence Saint-Germain and Irene Melczynski decorate birthday cakes.

In the program of activities in this mountain apartment: training sessions for upcoming ski events, but also home-cooked Christmas dinners, visiting Christmas markets, cookie recipes, board games and exchanging gifts.

Laurence St-Germain and Valérie Grenier with chocolate on their faces after preparing dessert.

photo courtesy

Laurence St-Germain and Valérie Grenier with chocolate on their faces after preparing dessert.

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And sometimes, the “little party” – because when we get close to the big competitions, we don’t celebrate too loudly – until it turns into… food fights!

“We’re together all the time, so it’s my second family,” says the skater. So we make it as family friendly as possible. It’s festive, yet quiet! “

Mom unpacks gifts

And FaceTime is also on the list. The 27-year-old skater goes to bed late so she can reach her family by video at the start of the party.

“My mom wraps my gifts. Then she unbuttons in front of me during the call, Saint-Germain laughing. And they have them when I get back around mid-January!”

The Quebec skater admitted that she did not find it easy, she spent her first Christmas away from her family. But over the years, I’ve come to terms with the idea. The last time I celebrated the holidays in Quebec was five years ago.

“This is the year I injured my knee,” she explains. And you don’t want to be at home at Christmas because you’re hurt…”

Another birthday on the way back

Valerie Grenier will also be in Linz in the last days of December, where she will run the giant slalom.

“It must have been four or five years since I came home during the holidays,” says the 25-year-old skater. The only exception was two years ago when I was injured. “

Grenier, of Mont-Tremblant, has also been accustomed to these birthdays over time, surrounded by members of the Canadian ski team.

“There was only one year in which he was a bit sad,” she recalls. Several girls and Marie-Michel were injured [Gagnon] He went on a trip to another place in Europe with his friend, because he also went skiing. “

“There was only one coach and I left. I felt a little lonely! But the other years, we have fun, we stay in apartments together. We listen to Christmas music.”

Since she’s only focused on giant slalom for now, Grenier could go home in early January. And sometimes his gifts are waiting for him at home, ready to be opened.

“My family has been waiting a few times before opening the gifts, so we can all open them together. Or if not, they throw another party for me, so I can unpack them!”

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