HERSHEY -- About the time a lot of Americans will be sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner this afternoon, the Hershey Bears will be getting on a bus.

The Bears will be traveling to Albany for Friday's game against the Albany River Rats, leaving a day early to avoid the anticipated heavy volume of traffic on "Black Friday."

For the Bears, Thanksgiving dinner will be served at the team hotel in Albany.

Considering that most of the Bears are either Canadian or European, Thanksgiving isn't quite the same special day it is to Americans. For those in the United States, it's a day to give thanks, but also one to get together with family and friends, to feast on turkey and all the trimmings and to catch some football on television.

Still, there are some Americans on the team. For them, the Thanksgiving tradition -- something they grew up with -- is something they miss.

"Growing up, you always get together," said Graham Mink, who was born and raised in Vermont. "My family would always go down to Connecticut, where my dad's from. He had six brothers and sisters, so it was a big family gathering. It's always good to watch football and hang out, eat some turkey and catch up."

That changed when Mink began to get serious about the game he loved.

"Since I started playing hockey, pretty much since I was 18 or 19, I haven't been able to do that, unfortunately," he said. "It's kind of different. You're with your hockey family.


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"The guys on this team, you spend a lot of time with over the course of a season, and if you're in the same place for a couple of years, you get to know guys well. They kind of become an extended family for you, even though most of them are not American."

Bears forward Keith Aucoin said it's an adjustment.

"It's tough," said Aucoin, a Massachusetts native. "It's been eight years since I've been home for Thanksgiving, so you kind of get used to it."

Quintin Laing can sympathize. A Canadian, Laing has spent his entire professional career -- which began in the 2000-01 season -- playing in the United States. He's become well acquainted with American customs, including America's special November holiday.

"It's always nice to have traditions and family," Laing said, "and any time you have an excuse to bring family and friends together, it's great. We love celebrating it.

"We kind of forgot when the Canadian one was, because we've been doing the American one. It's kind of nice to have the turkey. I think the kids look forward to it, too. It's something different."

Canada celebrates its Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October, but the Canadian holiday isn't quite as elaborate as America's celebration. And while they may adjust, American-born hockey players still miss the traditions they grew up with.

That includes Chris Bourque, a Massachusetts native and the son of Hockey Hall of Famer Ray Bourque. Despite growing up in a hockey family, Thanksgiving was no different than it was for most other Americans.

"We were the same as everyone else, I think," Bourque said. "Sometimes we were minus one person, but we used to go to family and friends houses, or my house, and have a good feast. My mom would cook. Good food and good times."

Now things are different.

"I feel like I haven't even had a Thanksgiving since I turned pro," he said. "I can't remember the last time I had a good Thanksgiving dinner. I kind of miss it. It's a fun time of the year.

"Holidays are always fun, being around your family and stuff. Now it's not as fun. It would be nice to be around the family."