It’s Christmas for many, but a birthday for Canucks defenceman Mark Friedman

Photo credit:© Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Paterson
5 months ago
While the rest of the National Hockey League pauses for a brief holiday break, Mark Friedman will be busy celebrating his birthday. This is nothing new for Friedman. It comes with the territory for anyone born on December 25th, as the Vancouver Canucks depth defenceman was in 1995.
For many, this time of year is all about Christmas. But for Friedman, that isn’t really the case.
“In my house, it was always just Mark’s birthday,” he said with a laugh after a recent practice at Rogers Arena. 
Born into a Jewish family in the Forest Hill-Rosedale area of Toronto, Friedman says a Christmas birthday was never a big deal, nor did he ever feel slighted by the fact he was born on a day that is so special for so many others. In fact, Friedman says he has the best of both worlds, tying all of his celebrations together for weeks at a time.
“I get to celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, and my birthday, so there’s nothing better,” he explained. “There’s pros and cons to having your birthday on Christmas, but it was awesome growing up. And for family and friends, it’s certainly a pretty easy one not to forget.”
While a Christmas birthday has never fazed Friedman, it did present a minor challenge for his parents on the day of his delivery. As his mother waited to go into labour, his father was tasked with finding something for them to eat. As it turns out, that was easier said than done when most shops and restaurants were closed for Christmas.
“My dad keeps telling the story about the only thing that was open restaurant-wise was Chinese food so he was in the hospital with my mom eating chow mein or something,” Friedman said with a chuckle. “And a few hours later I was born.”
As he grew up, Friedman says he recognized from a young age that a Christmas birthday was unique, but it was never more than that. Certainly it posed challenges for his parents when it came to things like throwing a birthday party since many of his friends, schoolmates and minor hockey teammates were preoccupied. 
However, he recalls that family tradition took the Friedmans out of town for his birthday most years.
“I was never really in Toronto for my birthday,” he said. “We always went up north to Sudbury where my mom’s side is from. They’re the Christian side, so they celebrate Christmas. My dad’s side is Jewish, so they don’t. So we’d always go up north to Sudbury and celebrate there.”
Friedman is the only current National Hockey Leaguer with a December 25th birthday and the first since Stu Barnes and Jim Dowd, who both retired in 2008. Through the years, Dowd is the only other Vancouver Canuck to have had a Christmas birthday. The journeyman forward played 38 regular season games and one playoff game for the Canucks in the mid-1990s. Vancouver was one of 10 stops for Dowd over his career, including a pair with the New Jersey Devils.
As for Friedman, if he has a birthday wish this year, it’s probably for some playing time. He has been a healthy scratch in 12 straight games since the Canucks acquired Nikita Zadorov. His last game action came in a 4-1 loss to Vegas on November 30th. On the season, Friedman has appeared in 18 games, registering one assist and 19 penalty minutes.
So even though he’s not playing as much as he’d like, Friedman is still a part of a hockey club that has exceeded everyone’s wildest expectations so far this season. That means as he and his Canucks teammates enjoy some downtime over the next few days, Friedman will have several reasons to celebrate. However, with age comes wisdom, and for Friedman, the novelty of a Christmas birthday has faded a little with time.
“A birthday is a birthday,” he said. “The older I get, it’s just – whatever.”
While it may be different now than it was growing up, Mark Friedman knows December 25th will always be a special day – his special day. But he’s happy to share it with everyone that celebrates Christmas, too.

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