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From Player's Wife to Coach's Wife...

November 4, 2011

My first question was:

How was the transition from player wife to coaches wife? How did that alter your relationship with the other girls? How do you keep your relationships professional as the coaches wife but still friendly towards the other wives? Always wondered about this!

When I met my husband, he was playing in the IHL (International Hockey defunct).  It was my hometown, and I can honestly say I didn't even know there was a hockey team...I certainly had never been to a game! (see how we met here)  The IHL was more of a league for two types of players; those who were being developed for the NHL (much like the AHL today), or for the older player who was pretty much at the end of their career.  At the time, my husband had been playing professionally for 16 years.  I always tease him by saying "if I had known anything about the game of hockey, I would have scouted the young players at the table...not the old one!"

My husband played for this team a few more years until he was abruptly traded at the deadline.  This was my first experience of what it was really like to date an athlete.  Fortunately he went to a great team and was able to retire at the end of that season.  I stayed behind until the last few weeks.  I was working in a middle school, and I had to stay until the school-year ended.  I then sold everything of mine and took a giant leap of faith!
 I recall one summer, I was living with him at his cottage...I had no friends or family, and I was quite lonely.  My husband had been away golfing for two days, and when he came home I began to cry.  He took one look at me and said..."Suck it up!"  "One day I will be a  coach, and that will be an extremely lonely time for you."  I guess I should be thankful he was so honest about the life of hockey...I definitely knew what I was getting into after dating five years before marriage (Are you reading that Kim Kardashian?)

As a player's girlfriend/wife, there are many opportunities to mingle with the other players.  Parties, get-togethers, All-Star trips, etc.  I was only twenty-one when we met, and my husband was the oldest guy on the team.  The other players on his team were mostly married and had kids.  At one point it felt like we were the only ones without kids!  I got along with the other wives/girlfriends, but since I was from the town he played in, I didn't rely on them so much for companionship.

The season after my husband retired, he became an assistant coach in the AHL and I became a flight attendant.  I was not around too much, so I had limited contact with the player's wives/girlfriends.  I recall attending a Pampered Chef party at someone's house.  But usually there was not too much interaction with the other girls.

The second season, my husband was a head coach in the ECHL....I had been furloughed (read here) and went to live in the new city with him.  The players were mostly in their early to mid-twenties, and very few were married.  There were two wives who were similar in age to me.  We got along well, but I don't think we really ever did much together except a dinner out here and there.  My husband and I hosted a Superbowl party, but I am sure the players went to be nice...and then had a real party somewhere else after they left.

Next season...a new ECHL team to coach. We moved again, and by the grace of did the Athletic Trainer and his wife.  We had become great friends!  I cannot even tell you a player's name from that team, let alone a wife or girlfriend.  That winter I went back to flying, so I wasn't around too much!

Another season...another team.  Back to an  AHL Assistant Coach's wife.  I was also pregnant.  After the first game I was walking towards my husband's office and a group of young, skinny, blonde girls were walking in a gaggle.  I assumed they were the "Ice Girls".

 Nope, I was wrong, they were the girlfriends (and maybe one wife) of the players.  In seven short years, I went from the youngest the older, chubby, pregnant wife of the assistant coach.  My how things change!  It didn't help that the Head Coach's wife was a professional athlete as well and she spent her time in California training.  Every time she came to town I was 10 pounds heavier! I think this was the first time I can recall the player's wives' seats on one side of the rink, and the coach's wives' seats on the other!  Needless to say I rarely went to games.  I was quite lonely (and pregnant).

The following year?  Yes, you guessed it....another city...MY HOMETOWN!  Life was good.  I made an occasional appearance at the games...but usually went right into my husband's office after to nurse our baby.  My husband was working with a new head coach, and he was great!  He had been married to his high school sweetheart for over twenty-two years.  She stayed behind with their high school-aged children, and would occasionally come to visit!  I loved her, and I think of her often.  She was definitely the "Hockey Wife" I wanted to be.  She taught me that I cannot take things too seriously, and I just have to go with the flow.  Our kids will turn out fine, and our marriage can survive!  I often hope the younger wives and girlfriends who read this blog can gain the same "survival" lessons Sue* taught me.
*Names have been changed!

The NHL team changed affiliates (again) and we was the same coaching staff.  I became good friends with the current Athletic Trainer's wife and the Equipment Manager's wife.  (Are you noticing the pattern?)  There are usually two groupings...

The wives and girlfriends of players on one side........The Coach's wives and Trainers' wives on the other.

We all get along and say our friendly hellos, but for the most part we would sit separately at games, and on occasion socialize together outside of the rink.  Of course it all depends on the situation, and the girls.

In this new city, we had a fantastic wives room, so we would all mainly hang out in there.  There were many children that year, and a lot of us were pregnant at the same time.  I think this was the most I had interacted with the player's wives in many years.  It was nice...but there was also an unwritten rule.  (sometimes it was foolishly broken).  Want to know the rule.

"NEVER trust that a woman will not tell her husband what she hears!"   

Hockey ladies...listen up!  

  • If you are a player's wife or girlfriend...don't talk about things your husband would not want the coach to know!  
  • If you are a coach's wife...don't discuss things a player is not supposed to know!  
  • I can honestly tell you I have repeated things to my husband after looking a girl straight in the eye and promising I wouldn't repeat it....
  • I can honestly tell you that I will take some things to the grave that my husband should have known but I promised I wouldn't tell...and I kept my word.
  • I can also say I have learned my lesson the hard way when I have spoken a little too freely about things I know because my husband is a coach.  

I am always amazed how loose some girl's lips can is NEVER wise to discuss your husband's business (personal or professional) around other wives!

As the years have passed, we have been with many more teams.  For the most part, the coach's wives are separate from the players' wives.  I find now...the players are so young that I wouldn't really have anything in common with the girls anyhow.  When I first met my husband, I would hate when we would go to another player's house, and my husband would dump me in the kitchen with the wife.  I wouldn't know her, and she would be busy trying to feed her kids while trying to engage in a conversation with a young twenty-one year old.  I couldn't relate to her.  I was young and she was old(er).  I didn't have kids and she did.  I wasn't married and she was.  It was painful being forced to hang out with people I didn't know!
I imagine that today I am the old(er), married-with-kids wife and the player's girlfriend is the young girl who wouldn't relate to me.  

Gone are the invites to the annual Halloween party.  Gone are the fun All-Star break vacations to Las Vegas.  Gone are drinks and dinner after the games. 

Life was much more fun as a player's wife/girlfriend....but my life is much more fulfilling as a coach's wife.  I don't think it is so much the actual position my husband is in, as much as it is the wisdom that has come with fifteen years as a "Hockey Wife".      


erinraemac said...

Your advice to the wives is perfect. I can't believe how open some girls are about things sometimes. There really is a line you DO NOT CROSS! I'm sure I've said a few things along the way that maybe I should not have (I hope nothing too bad?? Self evaluation right now...) but there's is definitely a learning curve. It's a different world, you learn something new everyday!

Jenni @ Dash of Love said...

Your blog always seems like it is me writing the posts - in a few years - with kids in tow - and a lot more hockey wisdom under my belt! Thanks for being the voice of reason in this crazy life - and giving me confidence that a marriage (even after the player to coach transition) cannot only survive - but thrive.....because we all know the success rate ain't too pretty! xo

Dropyourdesignergloves said...

Great advice for all! I am not quite used to this lifestyle, but am not coming in as a young girl, so it is nice to hear that this is normal :)

Momvstheboys said...

such an interesting inside perspective!

Lori E said...

This advice is relevant to all types of jobs/careers. I was the wife of the boss (still am but we sold our business) for years and it was very hard to interact with the wives and girlfriends of the staff especially if their spouse was not working up to par.
Though we didn't move around we did go through some staff and I finally gave up on trying to get to know their wives.
I am always amazed at the kinds of things people I hardly know will tell me. Most of it I really don't want to know. There is very little I won't tell my husband though and I expect the same from him.
My family is very involved in hockey. My brother has run goalie/hockey schools all over the world for the last 40 years and is now doing color commentary for a local team. My niece is the billet coordinator for their local team and always has between one and three teen boys eating her out of house and home any given season, if not the whole team. 
Talk about abrupt moves. These kids can be gone in an instant. Breaks her heart to lose some of them but as you know that is what a hockey career is all about.
Anyways, nice to meet you. Sorry I rambled on so long but I am a talker. Lol.