GUEST BLOGGER: KELSEY TALKS LIFE, LOVE + ( H O C K E Y ) RETIREMENT

Life works in funny ways. The summer of 2013, I had moved back home from college and I began to contemplate moving away from Knoxville for a fresh start. But like most stories, fate has a very funny way of stepping in and blowing plans way off course. In October 2013, fate came in the form of a hockey player from Canada named Bryan. Safe to say I was hooked.

Almost three years ago, I had a lunch date. Yes, the dreaded lunch date, with my now wonderful husband. If you ever ask us how we met, you’ve probably witnessed the awkward look we give each other and the “no you tell them” silent argument that goes on between us. We hear that question quite often because he is from Canada and I grew up in Knoxville where we live. The real story is that we actually “met” through Tinder…ya ya, google it. I was never drawn to the fact that he played hockey, mostly because he never told me until about two days before we were actually planning to meet. Go figure!

Now fast forward to our first date. We met at a local restaurant for lunch and it just so happens that we were the only two people in the entire place! Awkward! We spoke, ate, had a few beers to calm the nerves, and 2.5 hours later I was completely captivated. He was funny, smart, genuine, and showed this passion for embracing life no matter how it comes. The rest was kind of history.

Me? I grew up an athlete. I played soccer all through college and I am a fan of all things baseball and football, so I kinda get the whole sports thing. But after three seasons, hockey is still so foreign to me (sorry hun, you aren’t a good teacher). Contrary to popular belief, hockey and soccer are NOT that similar. We don’t have or need 17 different names for a penalty, fruit is not used to describe assists and bunnies are not used to describe women (lol). But in all the confusion, slang and anxiety filled periods, these last three seasons of hockey have given me experiences and friendships that I will never forget!

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Speaking of which, one important point I feel like I do have to mention is the “girlfriend section.” Yes, they do exist and there is one at every rink. Here you will find a group of true girlfriends, fiancés, and wives. They often travel in groups, cheer the loudest, are equally the most stressed out fans in the rink and wait around for hours after the game. For seven months out of the year, you spend the majority of your time with these girls and I must admit, I have been pretty damn lucky with the group of girls I have been blessed with during my seasons in Knoxville. If there’s anything that can’t be stressed enough, is that you make every single one of those girls feel welcome because they are your second life line and will end up knowing you better than anyone else. They will vent, brag and cry with you. They understand what it means to be a publicist, master packer, personal assistant, therapist, equipment manager and middle man all in one. They get you and your situation when no one else will.  So you girls, you know who you are because you took the time to read this, thank you so much for your friendship during those years!

I’ll be completely honest, and I may be slightly biased to say but, being a goalie’s wife might be the hardest of them all. YES fan sitting behind me, I CAN hear all the terrible things you say about my husband when he doesn’t perform to your standards. I also hear you praise his name when he wins in big games and I have to bite my tongue to not give you a piece of my own mind. I see you talk to these guys like you‘ve never uttered a bad word about them and it grinds me to my core. But for every bad fan, there are 10 good ones and ones that I have come to know and love and am thankful for inviting us to be a part of their lives.

I play many roles in the wife of a player. I am the punching bag, in terms of hearing an earful after Every. Single. Game. I am the motivator, the person who reassures everything will be okay, the one who picks him up when he is down and most importantly his number one fan. I will never forget the pure joy and happiness I saw on Bryan’s face the night they won the SPHL championship during the 2014-2015 season. I’m pretty sure that still outweighs the night I told him “Yes” when he asked me to marry him and the day I said “I do” when I did marry him.

But with all feel good stories, there is always an end. An end that I never thought would affect me the way it did. The night his career ended, I went home and cried. I cried because I knew it was his last game of his career. I cried because if I felt heartbroken, that I know it affected him 1000 times more and I can’t even imagine feeling like that. While it was no secret that I wasn’t always a fan of spending my entire weekend at the rink, I will forever miss the long nights out with our friends and teammates. I will miss the lingering and interacting with fans after the games while I wait in my usual spot. I will miss my free time on the weekends while he is gone but I will forever miss cheering for him and seeing him in an IceBears uniform doing what he loves.

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Now, we talk often about what our future life holds together and all the things we can do with our free weekends, but I still feel a pang of guilt that he will always be missing out on what he loves. We had our first free weekend together in a long time and it was so weird because we had no idea what to do with our time. Yes, there will be beer leagues and ball hockey on Saturday mornings and eventually there will be things that will consume our weekend but come October, I can’t help but feel there will still be a hole in our hearts when hockey season starts again.

If there were “Words of Wisdom” to share it would be this:

  1. Always, always, always support their passion no matter how hard it may be.
  2.  Introduce yourself to people in the hockey community along the way. They will be there to help you out in more ways than you’d ever imagine.
  3. Create friendships of your own. Get to know those girls sitting next to you. You’ll need them more than you know.
  4. Enjoy the experience, all it has to offer. There’s nothing else like it.

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