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Thanksgiving is work time for Gwinnett
Holiday just another day for Gladiators

As most of the country sits down to mind-numbing portions of turkey and dressing and pie today, the Gwinnett Gladiators will be expending vast amounts of energy in total contradiction of the nation's tryptophanic holiday.

For half the team, this really is just another day - since Canadians celebrate their Thanksgiving in October. And for the nine Americans on the roster, it has become just another day.

Few of them have been home for the holiday since college, or even high school. They've been too busy making something of their hockey career.

"You get used to it," said captain Mike Vigilante, a native of the Detroit area in his sixth professional season. "If we didn't play, maybe we'd get together as a team and make a dinner somewhere. But since we're playing, we've got to be ready for Texas. That's a big game. That's our Thanksgiving."

The division-rival Wildcatters visit the Arena at Gwinnett Center for tonight's 7:05 p.m. puck drop, one of just two ECHL games being played today. Augusta and Mississippi are the other matchup. But even players with the day off won't be going home for the most part. Friday there's a full schedule of 10 games and there were seven on Wednesday night.

"I honestly can't even remember when the last time I was at home (for Thanksgiving)," defenseman and Massachusetts native Jeff Mason said. "You know, it doesn't matter to me if we play on Thanksgiving or not - if I'm not at home, it's not a big deal anyway. I'm not cooking a turkey.

"You get used to it. People that don't do it, don't understand how you can miss holidays all the time and just keep going. But you get to see people enough in the summertime, so it makes up for the times you missed during the year."

Of course, though, there are things to miss. Family tops the list.

Vigilante said his family gets together at his grandparents' house to eat and watch the Detroit Lions' game.

"During the game everyone's in a good mood," said Vigilante, whose younger brother John plays for Milwaukee in the American Hockey League.

"After the game, everyone hates it because they usually find a way to blow those games.

"Then we vent over dessert."

Mason, in his third professional season after four years at Providence College, also remembers all the Thanksgiving gatherings at his grandmother's house.

"My mom's whole side of the family gets together at my grandma's in Boston," he said. "It's about 30 people and a lot of football, a lot of food and a lot of, uh, beverages of the cold variety.

"It's tough to miss, but it comes with the territory."

Sometimes family comes to you. Jim Jackson's mom is visiting him for the holiday and he said they're planning on doing some mother-son cooking.

The defenseman usually made it to Thanksgiving dinner in college since he went to Northern Michigan University, located in his hometown if Marquette.

"But even so, it's tough to even get there," Jackson said. "As a tradition, you always want to have a big feast for Thanksgiving. Sometimes games fall on Thanksgiving, so I guess we just kind of pick the next available date to get the whole family together."

SideBar: Texas at Gwinnett

' When: Today, 7:05 p.m.

' Where: Arena at Gwinnett Center