Leafs remember holly, jolly Christmases

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:12 AM ET

The Maple Leafs play a kid's game and what better time than Christmas to reflect on the joys of childhood?

Some team members were asked what their favourite Christmas presents were:

- Centre Wayne Primeau:

"Growing up, we had four kids in our house, but my parents made sure everyone got their fair share of toys. There was a stage where Transformers or the rubber wrestling dolls were big for me and I got the wrestling ring to go with them.

"My daughter was born Dec. 23 (2003), so that was pretty special, too."

- General manager Brian Burke also had two of his children born in December:

"Those were pretty special Christmases having new babies in the house. As a kid. the best present was my first pair of Tacks at age 13. I had cheap skates and used them so much that I broke them. My dad said: 'If you're going to stick with (hockey), we're going to get you better skates'. They cost $32, a lot of money then."

- Defenceman Jeff Finger received one of the first pair of roller blades that hit the stores in tiny Houghton, Mich. There was just one problem:

"It was December and my mom didn't like them in the house. But I marked up the floor and ruined everything, and a few garage doors shooting pucks."

- Forward Jason Blake's folks splashed out for one of the first aluminum sticks for their 11-year-old:.

"They were pretty expensive then, not that they aren't now. I didn't want to cut it down to my height because I didn't want to ruin it. So it was quite a few inches too long before I could work my way to growing into it."

Europeans on the Leafs almost all had recollections of wishing for new hockey equipment.

- Forward Rickard Wallin:

"There was a pair of hockey pants that I got when I was seven or eight. All my friends had them, so I wanted to belong. They were the same black and gold as my hometown team and I liked Pittsburgh Penguin colours, so it kind of fit. I had mine for a long time and even ended up sleeping in them."

- Goalie Vesa Toskala says his parents must have been psychic when they gave him a goalie stick one Christmas.

"That's what put it in my mind to play (net). And I had a blocker one year, too. I played outside with my brother all the time, trying to break that garage door and get my parents mad."

- Forward Mikhail Grabovski's family faced some challenges getting their 8-year-old the white Titan hockey stick and gloves he coveted. Modern equipment was hard to get in their household in

"We didn't have a lot, so three years I had to play with one stick."

- Goalie Jonas Gustavsson's wish for more hockey cards to add to his collection was usually fulfilled.

"I tried to get all the players in the NHL. Of course, you wanted Wayne Gretzky and Patrick Roy, all the stars."

- Growing up in West Seneca, N.Y., winger Lee Stempniak wanted to look the part of a player, too:

"I got a West Seneca Wings jacket for Christmas my first year of travel hockey, with my name and number on it. I wore that thing for years. It was gold and blue, exactly like the Buffalo Sabres."

- For North American newcomer Nikolai Kulemin, Christmas is about being re-united with family:

"My parents are coming in January ... I haven't seen them since August. My other present is my son. Alexei is just learning to walk."

- Defenceman Mike Komisarek said there was no Christmas gift that could substitute for a cold Long Island evening that coincided with the start of school holidays.

"You would throw on the skates and go on to the pond and play until your face was numb and your feet were frozen."

LANCE.HORNBY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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