LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

– There's plenty for an NHL coach to worry about during the regular season.

Each and every day there's something that comes up to stress about.

But starting Christmas Eve, and lasting until they reassemble Saturday morning to fly to Ottawa, coach Mike Babcock is going to have other issues to worry about.

"You know what I'm going to worry about?" Babcock said. "I'm going to worry whether I have enough red wine and if there are enough gifts under the tree.

"Is Santa going to come and whether the turkey is well done enough and how much stuffing can I ram into this body?

"Then a little midnight Mass.

"That's my focus and I hope the guys are thinking the same.

"I won't be thinking about hockey, I can tell you that."

The NBA will have games on Christmas Day, and practices are going on the day after and before.

The NFL is right in the midst of its most crucial games on the final weekend of the regular season.

College football bowl games are coming at fans fast and furious.

But the NHL, during the last collective bargaining agreement negotiations, worked out with players a three-day break Dec. 24-26.

The league essentially closes down for business during those days.

Players love the idea of getting away from the sport and being with family and friends.

"I like we're going to get a couple of days off," Joakim Andersson said. "It's one of my favorite times of the year and I know it is for a lot of people.

"To get a couple of days off is great mentally. It would be weird, I feel (to play during Christmas). You should get a couple of days to relax and be with your family."

Andersson said in Sweden the leagues begin going on holiday break around mid-December.

"It was a longer break, we had a couple of weeks there," Andersson said.

But NHL players are satisfied with at least getting a few days off to exhale.

"We were talking about it recently where other sports don't do that (having the time off)," Brendan Smith said. "We're very lucky to have that. It's just a good time to rewind and get back to business."

In the Smith household, where all three brothers played hockey almost year-round, the Christmas holiday was the time when everyone came together for possibly the only time all year.

"It was always hard to get everyone together, so Christmas was the only time to get everyone together at home," Smith said. "It's just a great time to see friends you haven't seen in a while, and fun to see my parents and brothers."

And how was it in the Smith household in Toronto with three brothers growing up, all close in age?

"It's cooled down as we've gotten older, but we were pretty rambunctious," he said.

Most Red Wings are having family come in for the holidays, with many relatives attending the practices and games over the past few days.

For sure, presents and food and relaxation are taking precedence over hockey.

"For the next couple days we'll have fun with our family, then we get back to work and think about hockey," Tomas Tatar said.

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/tkulfan

LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE