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Mark Stuart: Spreading holiday cheer

Mark Stuart of the Boston Bruins has five points and is a plus-8 through 40 games. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

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Mark Stuart of the Boston Bruins has five points and is a plus-8 through 40 games. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

I wanted to apologize to everyone for taking a little break from the blogs; it has been too long since I caught up with you guys!

Anyway, given where we are in the calendar, I thought it would be fitting to do an entry about the holiday season. It’s my favorite time of the year. I have always enjoyed the cold weather, the snow and especially Christmas.

Every year since I was little, my family and I made the six-hour drive from my parents’ house in Minnesota to my grandparents’ house in Illinois to spend Christmas there. Including the extended family that would make the trip as well, we would have about 30 people there. Pretty big crowd, I know, but we always had a fun time. It’s great spending time with my family and seeing everyone. Everybody seems to be in good spirits around the holidays.

Because of the NHL schedule, though, the trips to my grandparents’ house have been considerably shorter recently. For the past three years I have had to fly to Chicago from Boston on Christmas Eve and then fly back Christmas night. Sometimes it seems like you are spending more time on a plane and in the airport than you do spending time with everyone, but in the end it’s worth it.

One of the things I like best about the holidays is giving gifts. My teammates and I participated in a holiday toy-shopping event to get in the gift-giving spirit. This is an annual thing that started when Ray Bourque played for the B’s. I was told that since then, a different Bruins player has taken the lead in organizing a team-wide shopping trip, where we all pitch in and buy toys for kids who unfortunately have to spend the holidays in a hospital or shelter. For the past three years, P.J. Axelsson has been in charge.

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It’s really a great event. One day we spend a few hours shopping and on another we deliver the toys to hospitals and shelters in the Greater Boston Area. This year I had to buy toys for kids five to eight years old. I bought some games I enjoyed as a kid, like Connect Four and Sorry. Hopefully whoever received them likes them as much as I did.

It's sad that some kids have to spend the holidays in the hospital, so visits are sometimes difficult, but the experience is rewarding for both sides. Being able to put smiles on their faces and spending a little time with them can make their day.

As pro athletes, we are in a position to give back to the community and help those who aren’t as fortunate, so it’s always good when we can contribute in whatever way possible.

Thanks for reading and I hope everyone had a safe and happy holiday season.

Mark Stuart is a defenseman in his fourth season with the Boston Bruins. A native of Rochester, Minn., Stuart was drafted out of Colorado College by the Bruins in 2003 (21st overall) and joined the club for the 2005-06 campaign. 

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