Empathy. Introspection. The human condition. What do these things have to do with the ice blade game? Only everything, you dunce!
Unfettered skill and unmatched ability is what draws a spectator to sport, but the human element is what makes a fan. We love The Players’ Tribune because their stories offer insight into the inner machinations of the people that make up our favorite stars. Thinking of our favorite athletes as regular human beings gives us a sense of closeness to them. Jocks: they’re just like us!
“What’s the point?” I hear you scoff. I do not blame you. I was beating around the bush, and now I will get to the point.
Kurt’s Christmas present to me was this idea: a thought experiment. A very good gift indeed. I am ashamed. All I got him was a pair of socks.
This particular thought experiment will consist of me putting myself into the very big shoes of the twenty-three rostered Philadelphia Flyers as of December 20th, 2017, and imagining what these big boys with big shoes would get for each other for a locker room Secret Santa. I am going to dedicate all 3000 percent of my empathic ability to astral projecting myself into the minds of men I have never met and never will meet. (All matches were randomized.)
You know what they say: get busy gifting or get busy dying. Jumping right in…
The gift: High-powered laser pointer
Given by: Claude Giroux
The way I see it, Claude Giroux is kind of a goofy boy. Loves a good joke, loves to party, loves to fuck around. He’s a perfect wingman, an excellent host, and a total prankster. That all seems pretty well documented. He also seems incredibly thoughtful, though, which makes me think that Giroux would love to get his darling first line center a silly present that holds either some sentimental value or took a bit of consideration. A strong laser pointer seems like a contender. Couturier’s cats would love it, and who doesn’t love watching a cat go nuts over a little red light? A fun gift that belies the thought behind it. Perfect.
The gift: A hand-knit sweater
Given by: Michal Neuvirth
Neuvy is on injured reserve, which means two things. One, there is no God. We knew this already, but it’s nice to confirm. Two, Michal Neuvirth has time to burn. What, you think he’s just putzing around, dick in hand, waiting for his body to stop killing him and his career? No, sir. Michal Neuvirth has things to do. And it just so happens that, throughout Neuvirth’s injury-riddled life, he happened to pick up a talent for knitting. In my head, at least. Flip’s new to the team, so a comforting, cozy sweater seems like an ideal present.
The gift: A selection of craft beer
Given by: Jori Lehtera
Lehtera is also new to Philly, looking to fit in and make his new teammates like him. (I’m sure it is not hard, what with Jori Lehtera’s very, very good face.) And even if you don’t know people very well in a Secret Santa, you learn in Gift Giving 101 that alcohol is a very safe bet. Plus, imagine Jori Lehtera walking through a Total Wine, eyes glazing over at the sheer volume of selection while trying to figure out what type of beer Claude Giroux would like best. Isn’t that just the most heartwarming thing you’ve ever heard of? I know. I know!
The gift: Groupon for a Krav Maga class
Given by: Radko Gudas
I was delighted to see these two paired up. Absolutely, dizzyingly elated. Radko Gudas is a murder dad, and Travis Konecny is his murder son. You think Radko would even hesitate here? Like, he would google “what’s the most violent form of fighting”, see “krav maga” listed among the most deadly styles of fighting, and then would immediately go purchase a class. Fuck. This is so good. I almost wanna write him a letter to make sure this happens. Oh jeez, what if they took it together? I need this.
The gift: A ushanka
Given by: Sean Couturier
I think Sean Couturier might be just about the nicest boy in the entire world. I don’t have, like, definitive proof or anything, and I haven’t crunched the numbers on this, but ... call it mother’s intuition. A gut feeling. He’s winning the Selke this year, sure, but I’ve already bestowed upon him the most prestigious award of all: Softest Boy. As team Soft Boy, Sean Couturier would get a very sweet gift for his friend Scott, and that would be a big fuzzy hat, so that people on the internet would stop making fun of his hairline.
The gift: A bottle of wine
Given by: Taylor Leier
I don’t know much about Taylor Leier besides the fact that he is fast, handsome, and a good brother. I mean, how much is there to learn besides that? I know that he’s probably closer to the younger dudes on the team, and while not complete strangers with good ol’ Jori, probably not best buddies either. A simple, no frills gift, then: alcohol.
The gift: This picture framed
Given by: Shayne Gostisbehere
Nothing stays with me more than when Shayne Gostisbehere and Taylor Leier were called up to the NHL together, and Leier was quoted as saying that they “hugged so hard.” I legitimately can’t focus on anything besides that, so this picture? After Shayne Gostisbehere scored the overtime game winner against the Canes? And Taylor Leier hugged him so hard? And we all got to enjoy it? Sorry, this has to be the present. What a treasured memory this must be for both of them! Ah!
The gift: Socks
Given by: Brian Elliott
How serendipitous! Another father and son! Brian Elliott has a face that has seen empires rise and fall like the sun, a face that has seen the Earth conquered a dozen times and a dozen more. He has seen chaos and order, terror and joy. This is a man who has seen the world burn, who watched as a bird spread its wings and flew from the still-warm ashes, resplendent and red. To put it plainly, Brian Elliott, the watcher of the world, has seen some shit. Still truckin’, though! I don’t think it’s weird to label him as co-team dad, and even though he has only known Nolan Patrick for a couple months now, I believe he feels the paternal urge to protect said rookie. What’s more protective than socks? Everyone knows the importance of a good pair of socks.
The gift: Ancient Aliens box set
Given by: Travis Sanheim
“I heard you were really into conspiracy theories?” Travis would say, presenting the bag with red and green tissue paper overflowing at the top. “This seemed right up your alley.”
The gift: A selection of Kong toys
Given by: Robert Hagg
What do you get the man who has the world? This is absolutely the question that would rattle its way through the young defenseman’s mind, and is currently rattling its way through mine. I mean, something for his beautiful dogs would be a safe bet, and Robert Hagg is nothing if not safe. A couple bones, obviously. A ball or two, maybe one with the rope attached. And a frisbee, perhaps? They do call it a Flyer, after all.
The gift: A knife
Given by: Scott Laughton
You know that video of the little kid running around the pool? A concerned young woman says “let me see what you have!” And the boy raises his fist before shouting “a knife!” exuberantly? Then the video ends with the young woman yelling “no!”, angry and frustrated? For some reason, I was reminded of that video.
The gift: A six pack of Velkopopovický Kozel
Given by: Jakub Voracek
It’s hard to get past my “Wild Czech Santa Claus” characterization of Jakub Voracek. Chaotic good, through and through. I think he’d absolutely use this as an opportunity to prove that Czech beers are better and would then boast about it. I love Jake Voracek. I hope Jordan Weal likes beer.
The gift: Homemade nanaimo bars
Given by: Jordan Weal
What’s nicer than giving someone a little piece of home? Just kidding, the question was rhetorical.
The gift: Matching Christmas sweaters for Shayne, Gina, Cooper, and Pippa
Given by: Alex Lyon
Alex Lyon hasn’t seen NHL ice time yet, and maybe never will considering how Brian Elliott is trying to save me from the clutches of the devil, but that doesn’t mean he would be excluded from a fun holiday event! Alex most likely knows how important Shayne Gostisbehere is to the team and to the city, so he would feel some pressure to really knock it out of the park with his present. Family sweaters would be pretty adorable.
The gift: Boxing gloves
Given by: Wayne Simmonds
Radko Gudas got rocked by Kevin Bieksa, and I doubt that Wayne Simmonds would let him forget it. “Maybe sharpen up the skills.” And then Radko would give him a noogie. Man, I love Christmas.
The gift: A bottle of 15 year old Glenfiddich Scotch
Given by: Ivan Provorov
Ivan Provorov is a very serious young man who would give serious presents, and there is nothing more serious than scotch. What a nice boy.
The gift: A new pair of New Balances
Given by: Valtteri Filppula
Valtteri is a smart cookie, and let’s face it, Andrew MacDonald is such a dad. Guaranteed he’s been thinking about ordering a new pair of Dad Sneaks for himself off Amazon, so trust good ol’ Flip to beat him to the punch. A Christmas miracle!
The gift: Connor McDavid jersey
Given by: Dale Weise
I don’t think that this is what would happen in real life, but the thought of Brandon Manning being presented with a Connor McDavid jersey is enough to send me into a fit of giggles, so ... it stays.
The gift: A bottle of vodka
Given by: Brandon Manning
Brandon Manning would hear he was buying for Ivan Provorov, and he would immediately drive to the nearest liquor store to get his shopping out of the way. I doubt his thought process would extend past “he’s Russian.” And then someone would have to explain to him that Ivan Provorov isn’t of legal drinking age yet. Yet!
The gift: Dinner
Given by: Nolan Patrick
New boys, new boys, new boys! Ah, I love that these two got paired up. I love them both very much, and they are both very special to me. Young Flyers being buddies makes me happy, and I think Travis would be delighted by the offer to pay for dinner. Maybe he would demand Moshulu. You deserve the best, my boy.
The gift: Mel Brooks box set
Given by: Andrew MacDonald
Just a couple of old dudes over here. What do dads love? Well, in my experience, they love Mel Brooks movies. I’m sure Andrew wants to give Brian some laughs...which might explain some of his defense! Hah! Got him!
The gift: Waffle maker
Given by: Michael Raffl
In an attempt to seem normal while fitting in among the humans, Raffl would absolutely try to study Alex Lyon’s habits in order to get him a perfectly normal present. He would see Lyon eating waffles at a team breakfast once, immediately go to Pottery Barn, and buy the most expensive waffle maker they had (complete with the complimentary gift-wrapping, seeing as he is incapable of doing it himself) without seeing how goofy it would be for a man named Raffl to get someone a waffle maker.
The gift: Camo-printed baseball hat
Given by: Travis Konecny
Travis Konecny is not a boy who gives gifts. Travis Konecny takes gifts for his own. I’m honestly trying to picture him shopping for a present, and the picture simply will not manifest. Maybe he would wander around Cabela’s for an hour before settling on buying Neuvy the same camo baseball hat that he possesses? I’m at a loss.
Merry Christmas, friends!