Christmas in Sun Valley means reunions of the heart, home and....hockey players?
Well, yes, the Sun Valley Suns men's senior hockey team has celebrated the holiday with a succession of alumni exhibition games in the past few years, and they've been very successful because the town is crowded with those looking to party.
This year, there is a new wrinkle for the wrinkled and unwrinkled hockey players—two games instead of one, spotlighting the young and not-so-young, with all proceeds going to Sun Valley Youth Hockey.
Suns general manager John "Cub" Burke said, "It's a fun night over the holiday, for a good cause."
The exhibition happens Friday, Dec. 23 at Sun Valley Skating Center. It starts at 6:30 p.m. with the Sundowners (Suns alumni) splitting into two squads and playing two, 25-minute running-time halves.
"If you've ever played with the Suns, you are welcome to be in the alumni game," said Burke.
They'll be playing for the new Phil Neville Memorial Cup, remembering the popular former Suns skater and radio broadcaster.
Bench coaches Friday will be professional golfer Davis Love III and Steve "Hugey" McCoy. Burke is Love's caddy on the PGA tour and has convinced Love that hockey in Sun Valley is good for the health.
Love has become a benefactor for the Suns team and enjoys the hockey camaraderie, although he doesn't think he can skate with the caliber of former Suns like Hermie Haavik, Charlie Mills, Glenn Hunter, Dale Johnson, Tim Jeneson, Mark Broz and Tony Benson, Burke said.
Or, as Burke said, "Davis doesn't think he's the caliber to compete with a bunch of 50-year-old fat guys. But he's a real disciplinarian behind the bench. There's a little Scotty Bowman in him."
After presumably coaching his team to victory and the Neville Cup, Love will drop the puck for the 8 p.m. contest between the "Rising Suns," team of high school and college-aged players, and the current edition of the Sun Valley Suns (2-0).
"I'm real excited about the Rising Suns-Suns game," said Burke. "We'll have about 11 or 12 players from our high school team alone, and they'll play with kids away from home in juniors, prep school or in college."
Those skaters include Burke's stepson Blake Jenson, with the Fort Worth Texans, along with Justin Taylor, Joey Sides of Wentworth College in Boston and Jordan Pritchett. The goaltender will be Regan O'Reilly of the Sun Valley Midgets.
It will be no-check game with 25-minute stop-time halves.
The admission fee of $7 adults or $5 for youth ages 6-18 (kids 5-and-under are free) will cover both exhibition games. "One ticket is good for both games," said Burke.
Friday's Suns exhibition will be a holiday breather before the 2005-06 schedule of 20 home Suns games resumes with a New Year's weekend clash against McCall Dec. 30-31.