All over the country, paper hand turkeys and favorite photos will look on as families dig into their Thanksgiving meal.
The Air Force hockey team will be chowing down surrounded by immediate and adopted family, plus one of Jimi Hendrix’s guitars and a bustier worn by Madonna.
In between road series, the Falcons will be feasting at the Hard Rock Cafe in Niagara Falls, N.Y.
Friends and family, if they can get there, are invited.
“Thanksgiving is wherever family’s at,” said senior Brady Tomlak, who will have spent three of his four holidays at Air Force away from home. “We’ll make the best of it.”
With a week off of classes between road series at Robert Morris outside of Pittsburgh, where they beat and tied the Colonials last weekend, and Niagara, the Falcons stayed on the road.
They’ve had the home-cooked experience already this week, as the family of sophomore defenseman and Pittsburgh native Carter Ekberg hosted everyone for a meal Sunday.
Then the Falcons were tourists, attending the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 3-2 overtime win over the Calgary Flames on Monday before heading to Toronto to visit the Hockey Hall of Fame.
While millions of others are nervously checking the turkey, Thursday will be more or less a normal in-season day for the Falcons. Eat, go to the rink, watch film. Eat again, surrounded by music memorabilia.
“Nothing really changes too much,” Tomlak said.
Many long hockey seasons have made the Falcons adaptable, and this year is no exception. But there are still a few firsts to be had.
“This is really my first road trip,” freshman Willie Reim, who played in his native Minnesota before juniors, said. “I’ve never lived on the road for 10 days. In juniors you’d drive all the way there, then drive all the way back.
“Good to get away, especially from base, and do some fun activities.”
This isn’t Reim’s first Thanksgiving away from home. He spent the past two seasons with the British Columbia Hockey League’s West Kelowna Warriors, in a country where they celebrate Thanksgiving the second Monday in October. He was preparing for a Friday night game last season too.
His parents will be at home, and Reim will check in via video chat. The family will likely stream the weekend’s games against the Purple Eagles.
Tomlak described Niagara as “on the upswing,” like Air Force, and their starts have been similar. Niagara began 0-8-1 and have won three in a row, while the Falcons dropped their first seven games but haven’t lost in five.
“They’re still looking to dig out of the hole they created,” Tomlak said.
The teams last saw each other in March’s Atlantic Hockey quarterfinals, where the Purple Eagles swept the Falcons at home, ending the higher seed’s season.
After a week of bonding and sightseeing and a hard rock Thanksgiving, it’s time to seek a little payback.
“They knocked us out of the playoffs last year, so there’s extra motivation for the older guys,” Tomlak said.