For most of the Portland Pirates, Thanksgiving is just another day at the rink.
The team is scheduled for a full practice this morning at the Cumberland County Civic Center to prepare for the weekend’s three games in three nights.
The players instead held a holiday gathering Wednesday night at right wing Mark Parrish’s home in Old Orchard Beach.
“Every year you try to get together with the team and eat a big dinner together,” said right wing Mark Mancari, who grew up in London, Ontario. “There are a lot of guys from Canada, guys from everywhere, so the Americans take you in and we celebrate it together.”
Canada celebrated its Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October.
Parrish, who grew up in Bloomington, Minn., is one of the 11 American-born players on the team.
“I do none of the work and get all the credit,” he said. “My wife is a fantastic cook. She drives me crazy with all of the Food Channel shows she has on.”
The dinner menu was pot luck.
“It’s nice because at a dinner like this you get a lot of different family dishes,” Parrish said. “The wives and girlfriends are included, and everybody brings food to share with everybody.”
Because of the schedule, the captains decided to have Thanksgiving on Wednesday night rather than load up on turkey today.
“We’ll practice (today) and skate Friday and get all of the turkey out of us,” Parrish said.
Left wing Dennis McCauley, the only Pirate from New England, intends to spend part of the holiday with his family in Billerica, Mass.
“We’ll practice and then I’ll just drive home,” he said.
Last season, McCauley played for the Worcester Sharks and also was able to get home.
During his four years at Northeastern, McCauley missed just one Thanksgiving. “My senior year we were at a tournament at RPI and I ate in a hotel,” he said.
McCauley is part of triplets.
“We all come home for Thanksgiving,” he said. “Usually we have about 26 people because my mother is one of seven kids and everyone comes to our house for Thanksgiving. It’s good to have everyone in the house on the same day.”
FOLLOWING THE call-up of forwards Luke Adam and Colin Stuart by the Buffalo Sabres, Portland Coach Kevin Dineen tried different line combinations at Wednesday’s practice.
“We”ll probably change (the lines) again (today) to give everybody a feel for each other and develop a little chemistry,” he said.
For Wednesday’s practice, left wing Derek Whitmore moved into the first line with center Matt Ellis and Mancari; right wing Corey Tropp joined center Paul Byron and Parrish to form a speedy line; defenseman Tim Conboy, who has played forward in 50 NHL games, moved onto an extremely physical line with center Travis Turnbull and McCauley; and right wings Maxime Legault and Maxime Lagace teamed with center Brian Roloff to form an all-rookie line.
“It leaves a big hole in our lineup with Luke and Colin gone, and guys are going to have to step up,” Whitmore said. “It’s an opportunity.”
FANS DONATING $5 or more to the Bruce Roberts Toy Fund or donating an unwrapped toy at Friday night’s game against Springfield at the Cumberland County Civic Center will receive two free tickets to a future Pirates game.
NOTES: Portland defenseman Drew Schiestel continues to lead the AHL with a plus-13 rating. Adam and rookie defenseman Alex Biega each have a plus-10 rating to rank among the AHL’s top five. Tropp is tied for the AHL lead with three shootout goals. Whitmore has two game-winning shootout goals to share the AHL lead. David Leggio has made 20 saves during the Pirates’ four shootouts to lead AHL goalies. In 10 home dates, the Pirates have an average attendance of 4,312 to rank 16th among 30 AHL teams.
Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: