Moving to a new city for a job can be extremely stressful. Uprooting your life, finding a new place to live, developing new friendships and finding a new place to stay active all add to the anxiety. But in many cases, it can also be a rewarding experience with its new adventures and a feeling of starting fresh.
For professional athletes, it’s part of the job. Unless your name is Steve Yzerman or Maurice Richard, you’re unlikely to finish out your career in the same city that you were drafted to. It’s tough on the players to bounce from city to city, but it’s even more difficult on their family or partner. While the player is off on the road for half the season, their significant other is often left back home to hold down the fort and keep things running smoothly.
When Cam Talbot was traded by the New York Rangers to the Oilers in 2015 it was a move that allowed him to move out of the position as a back-up to Henrik Lundqvist and earn the chance to be a starting goalie in the NHL. A dream opportunity for any young hockey player.
The life of a hockey wife however can be quite different.
Kelly Talbot grew up in Texas after moving there from Michigan in 2002 for her sophomore year in high school. Her parents owned an ice rink and her dad and brother played hockey, so you can say that hockey has always been part of her life. It was a rough transition moving to a new city and a new school, but Kelly made the best of it by trying out and playing nearly every sport she could. Texas is still home to this day with her family still living there.
She and Cam married in 2012 and life has been an adventure ever since.
“Life as a hockey wife is great,” she says. “It definitely has its ups and downs. You get to see your husband pursue a childhood dream which is worth it in itself.”
The excitement and experience that comes with traveling and living in different cities is not for everyone, but the opportunity to make so many lifelong friends makes it worthwhile.
“I always call it a double edge sword, you get to experience so many good things, your husband gets to do what he loves every day. But you do get extremely lonely and when you have children you’re doing a lot of it alone when they’re gone.”
She feels that it’s just as tough on the players since they miss everything happening at home and if they have kids, there are missed milestones that they will never get to experience. Everything from a first step to a first word are often missed while away. Snapping a video or sharing the moment on Facetime just can’t replace the experience of being there and she knows that is the toughest part for Cam.
When the couple first met, Kelly worked in the hotel industry. She describes herself as a people person and it was the perfect profession for her. While they were dating, she kept working and would go visit Cam when she could. After they got engaged she was extremely torn on whether to move with Cam while he was playing in the AHL with the Connecticut Whale in Hartford or to continue growing her career.
“I ended up quitting and moving with him which was hard,” she says. “It’s hard to find yourself again when you’re in a new place and nothing is familiar. I tried finding jobs that would hire me only for the hockey season which in hotels in nearly impossible. I started to nanny because it was the best way to make money and also do what I love which is caring for kids.”
Unless you’ve been part of that life, it’s difficult to imagine what the player’s wives go through. The only comparison I could think of would be that of a military wife. It is a difficult choice to give up your own pursuits to be able to allow your spouse to pursue their dreams. I know many will say that it’s probably made easier by the kind of money that their husband makes, but that still doesn’t make it any easier mentally.
“No one realizes it but it’s tough for us “hockey wives” who uproot for our significant others to find jobs that might be only for a single season. I definitely felt lost and lost myself as a person for a good chunk of the beginning. This life is glamorous at times don’t get me wrong but when you dig deep down and get to know me there’s a lot that you miss.”
Things are far different today than they were a generation ago when it comes to welcoming players and their families to the team and the new city that they will be calling home. Everything from arranging housing and helping the families get adjusted to their new surroundings are part of the culture every NHL team has adopted.
Coming into Rexall for the first time was a nerve wracking experience for Kelly. With a new group of girls and a new team, she was scared and felt out of her comfort zone.
“Once I walked into the wife’s lounge, I felt so welcomed! The girls were so friendly I just couldn’t believe it! A big tribute to that would be Jill Metz, who used to work for the Oilers. She did everything she could to make sure all the girls were taken care of, new and old!”
When you join a new team, it’s not just the player who is joining, it’s their entire family. There are wives and girlfriends who have been there for years and those who are new coming in at the same time. It’s been a great experience for Kelly as she has made lifelong friends from both teams they’ve been on.
She looks at it in a way that they’re all in it together, where their significant others all do the same thing and they are alone when they’re gone. She does her best to make the most of bonding with the wives and girlfriends and doing “girls nights” and watching games together. There is no one else who understands the crazy lifestyle they are living more than them.
In 2016, Kelly and Cam welcomed their twins to the Oiler family. Landon and Sloane are regulars now at Oiler games wearing dad’s jersey and cheering him on from home when he’s on the road. Not having family close to Edmonton has been the toughest part for Kelly.
“The day we had the twins, that night Cam went home to sleep for the game the next night. It’s just like that. back to work mode for him!”
It was a hard adjustment for Kelly trying to make sure that Cam got his sleep then trying to feed two babies at once while pumping day and night. She feels so lucky that she had the help of her mom who was in town for almost a month after their births. For her what was important was making sure Cam and the twins were taken care of as much as possible. As you can see if you follow Kelly on Instagram, Cam is such a hands-on dad that he tries to make up for all the lost time when he’s away from home in the time he has with them.
Last summer, Kelly and Cam decided to make Edmonton their home. While most players leave the city for the off season and head back to their “real home,” they decided to set roots in Edmonton to raise their little ones. Once they had the twins, they thought long and hard about what to do. They still had a house in Ontario but knew that wasn’t going to be their forever home.
“We made really amazing friends with all our neighbors once we moved to Edmonton. We loved the area and so many kids! We just knew we wanted our kids to start growing up here, it reminded me exactly of my childhood, kids playing street hockey and just being outside all summer long! That’s exactly what I want for the twins, I want them to play tag, go to the parks, play with bugs and just enjoy being a kid!”
For any new mom, you struggle to find that balance of taking care of your children and yourself. Kelly struggled with postpartum anxiety after having the twins and wouldn’t leave them longer then 2 hours at a time. This made it difficult for her to find the time to take care of herself mentally and physically.
“I absolutely love Pilates reformer classes. That is where I can strengthen both my body and my mind and take a break from worrying. Little by little I got back into my work out game, I train at Body by Bennett 5 days a week and I love my trainer Karla! It’s great having someone push you but totally understand when I’m late because either Landon or Sloane are having a melt down!”
She knows the importance of being as healthy as she can be so that she will be able to chase her kids around for as long as possible! There are days where her anxiety still kicks in about leaving them and she has found that she needs to remind herself that she needs to do it for herself!
“Any moms out there know how hard yet how rewarding being a mom is. You tend to take a back seat in taking care of yourself. I struggled for a really hard time & sometimes still do. It’s just so important to take that time out for yourself to refresh and reset!”
TJ Sadler – Editor – YEG Fitness