December 17 – The Nutcracker

Winter Wonderland

While the holiday season is meant to inspire quality time with family and friends, it can also be a time of rivalry and hostility… and I’m not just talking about your Christmas dinner! Here are some of the many winter sports traditions that bring a smile to sports fan’s faces each holiday season!

College Bowl Games

It seems like every team gets to play in a Bowl Game, providing there’s a major corporate sponsor able to fund the event. In fact, there are currently 35 games, providing 70 teams a chance to play. Five of these contests are considered part of the Bowl Championship Series, which culminates with the National Championship Game, played between two selected teams in early January. That’s right, “selected” teams… way to earn you way into the biggest game of the season.

viagrabowl

Winter Classic/Heritage Classic

The NHL’s Winter Classic is played at an outdoor stadium each year on New Year’s Day and has become a tradition for the league and fans alike, as they nurse their New Year’s Eve hangovers. While the conditions haven’t produced any classic games, it is a huge event and HBO’s 24/7 series, which follows the two teams playing in their lead up to the big game, has manufactured a number of memorable moments. The Heritage Classic is the Canada-only version of the game and is played later in the year.

NBA Christmas Day Games

Each Christmas Day (since the NBA began operations in 1946) provides hoops fans with a collection of highlight showdowns. Currently, the league offers five Christmas Day match-ups. In recent years, games have included the Miami Heat battling the Los Angeles Lakes, with a mass amount of star power on each side. This season, the two loaded teams will meet again, as well as a number of strong regional tilts, despite some controversy over the league operating on Christmas.

Teddy Bear Toss

It has become a tradition with many junior and minor leagues hockey clubs to host an annual Teddy Bear Toss. People bring a new stuffed toy to the game where the promotion has been planned and when the home team scores their first goal, fans are permitted to litter the ice with the gifts they brought. When all the bears and other animals are collected, they are donated to a local charity to help the less fortunate provide a wonderful Christmas experience to their kids.

Thanksgiving Football

The holiday season for sports fans begins with a bang as turkey day football hits the air and allows gents to ignore their families over Thanksgiving, as well as the rest of the year! The NFL provides fans with a smattering of traditional games, featuring the same teams each year. The league has recently added a third contest with rotating opponents. The Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys, respectively host the first two games each season, with the Green Bay Packers often being included, as well.

World Junior Hockey Championship

For hockey fans, this is the equivalent to March Madness. Watching young athletes that will be the future of their sport, do what they do best. The annual event is huge for Canadians, probably because we place pretty well most years and because it kicks off every Boxing Day (Dec. 26), it’s the perfect thing to have on as you relax with your new gifts. One of my great achievements was covering the 2006 tournament for Hockey Canada, in Vancouver, where the Canadians took home the gold medal!

Winter X Games

We’ll close this list with the most extreme of winter sports activities, the X Games. Comprised of events in snowboarding, skiing, and snowmobile, and held in late January, the X Games provides a bit of a coming together for the counter-culture. The success of the Winter X Games has translated into snowboarding events being added as Olympic competition events and made folks like Shaun White rich and famous!

Drink #351: The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker Drink Recipe

  • 1 oz Frangelico
  • 1 oz Vodka
  • 1 oz Amaretto
  • 1 oz Crème de Cacao
  • Garnish with Chocolate Shavings

Let’s not forget that every four years, the Winter Olympics roll around. The 2010 event in Vancouver was simply amazing and it was so wonderful to be around all the festivities, as well as working for NBC Universal Sports during the Games. What’s your favourite winter sporting tradition?

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4 Sips out of 5):
I’ve seen a couple different versions of this recipe, including one that subs Irish Crème and Kahlua in for Frangelico and Crème de Cacao. Use whichever you prefer. I thought this was a pretty good martini and wasn’t too strong. The Chocolate Shavings were a specific delight to take in with each sip. I used an Aero bar, which I think is one of the best chocolates to grate.

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