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It's a ho-hum holiday

New Year's Eve holds little celebratory appeal for Lightning players, unless they score a victory.

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 31, 2001


TAMPA -- New Year's Eve is a strange day for hockey players.

Festivities and parties are being planned around them, but all they see are game plans.

They will count down the final seconds of 2001, but their biggest concern, if they have a game like the Lightning, will be counting down the final seconds of what they hope is another victory.

"I've spent my New Year's in buses, planes and hotel rooms," defenseman Jassen Cullimore said. "It's one of those holidays, doing what we do, you can't put too much importance on it. We don't get a chance to really celebrate."

"Every year it just doesn't seem to be a big deal," defenseman Grant Ledyard said. "It seems to be a bit dull."

It follows, then, that players aren't big into making New Year's resolutions.

"I'm too young for that," 23-year-old right wing Ben Clymer said. "I haven't had enough years to develop too many bad habits."

"I just know that I'm not going to keep to it, so I never made them," center Brad Richards said. "And there's nothing I have to change in my lifestyle. In my hockey life I can change a few things, but you have to do that every day."

Press a bit, however, and a few concerns emerge.

Cullimore said he is resolving, at the insistence of wife Tanya, to give up chewing tobacco.

"And I imagine," he said, "the coaches would like to see me lose some weight."

Center Tim Taylor said his resolution is to try and "do better" on the ice.

"I know one for the team though," he said. "To win a game in the third period."

It is something the Lightning has done twice since the start of last season.

The team was 1-32-1 last season when trailing after two periods. It is 1-10-1-1 this season, including Saturday's 5-4 overtime loss to the Bruins, in which Tampa Bay scored twice in the third to take a 4-3 lead.

But former Lightning Rob Zamuner scored short-handed to tie, and Glen Murray wrapped it up in overtime.

"The feeling in here after was that we gave them the game," left wing Dave Andreychuk said. "We felt we could have won the game. We felt we should have won the game. We battled hard to get the lead and then we made some mistakes."

The team wouldn't mind putting Taylor's resolution into practice tonight, if needed, against the Maple Leafs. Technically that would make it a New Year's Eve resolution, but why quibble.

After all, Gordie Dwyer said, New Year's Eve is when Johnny New Year comes to call.

The Lightning left wing said his parents made up the gift-giving character -- "He was sort of like Santa Claus," he said -- so the Dwyer children would go to bed early and not give the babysitter trouble while their parents celebrated.

The rewards for good behavior were small -- a piece of chocolate, some chips or a can of soda wrapped in a box with the child's name on it -- and Dwyer said he never found out what Johnny New Year was supposed to look like.

But it worked.

"It was New Year's Eve," Dwyer said. "It's more of a time for grown-ups. This was a little something for the kids."

As an adult, Dwyer said he has stayed away from resolutions.

"I've never had anything very significant to drop, like bad habits or anything like that," he said.

Defenseman Pavel Kubina said his resolutions are general: to help get the team to the playoffs, to be healthy, to wish the best for his family.

"It's not really a holiday," Kubina said. "You can celebrate at midnight, but a day later you have a game, so it's not a holiday at all."

Don't let Johnny New Year hear you say that.

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