from Terry Jones of the Edmonton Sun,
It’s a bit of a test of a person’s memory considering it’s going back 58 years in the case of Bruce and Audrey MacGregor and their first experiences with hockey on Christmas Day in the NHL.
There are few people who can take you back and better than the MacGregors.
Back in the Original Six days there was no NHLPA and no collective bargaining agreements. Pro players were forced to play on Christmas Day.
“During our days in Detroit, we never had Christmas together for about seven seasons, I think it was,” said Audrey of her NHL husband that scored 213 goals in 893 games with Detroit and New York before becoming a WHA Oiler and assistant general manager of the five-time Stanley Cup champion Oilers in the NHL.
While NBA basketball teams still play on Christmas Day, back in those days almost all the players in the NHL were Canadians that grew up having a white Christmas at home with family.
“The Red Wings always played in Chicago on Christmas Day so the team would board a train on Christmas Eve in Detroit, play there Christmas Day and return by train to Detroit on the 26th. Then we’d pretend to have Christmas,” she said.
“What I remember is when we arrived in Chicago on the 24th, it was like a ghost town and finding some place to eat was a problem. We didn’t have much choice about treating it like any other game day.”
It was actually easier on the players than the families.
“I didn’t handle it so well,” said Audrey. “That was especially true when Brad was just a baby, which would be our second year in Detroit.
“That part I remember like it was yesterday.
“We were living over in Windsor where we didn’t really know anybody. Most of the other Red Wings were living in Detroit. And back in those early years you had a very difficult time phoning long distance as the lines were always busy.
“I cried a lot that Christmas Day. I remember having a grilled cheese sandwich for Christmas dinner and watching it rain.