Perhaps the subtitle of this blog should be ‘Lane talks about sisterhood until you can’t stand it anymore.’ Because here I am again.
Our particular lifestyle leads to a certain kind of isolation. We move. A lot. We stay in touch with our friends, but we can’t take them with us. Which means every season we find ourselves together with a new group of people, and those people (no matter who they are) are the most viable candidates for any hope you have at a social life. For North American hockey families who live overseas, particularly in countries where English isn’t the language, the group of other players and their families is even more important.
The ‘imports’ on the team are sort of thrown together, in new situations far away from home with little to no access to the comfort foods to which you’ve become accustomed. Most of us are in this hockey life by choice. There are some amazing benefits. The travel. The adventure. Supporting a partner as they live their dream. The flexibility. The excitement.
But like any choice in life, this particular path has it’s rocky points. Uncertainty. Homesickness. Instability. Lonliness. Watching your partner struggle with the inevitable transition out of this lifestyle. Flying coach. Flying coach for 25 hours.
One of the best antidotes to all of those hardships is the sisterhood of other women who are living this same life. Who understand the ups and downs. Who feel both joy and pain as one season turns into another. Who give up so much willingly and accept all the unknown openly.
Dave is my co-pilot on this journey, I have his back, he has mine. But he doesn’t always get it. Because while we share many struggles specific to hockey life, he can’t understand what it’s like to play the supporting role. He doesn’t know what it’s like to watch him have to negotiate for his own worth each year. He hasn’t had to put his career on hold and say goodbye to his friends to follow my dreams (yet). And so for those things, I turn to my sisters in hockeydom for camaraderie. And complaining. Camaraderie and complaining in an alternating pattern.
The ladies of this sisterhood often refer to themselves as “hockey wives”. They name their blogs using this term, make cute play-off t-shirts with it emblazoned on the back , create support group on Facebook with this label. And as much as I love the idea of embracing our shared experience, I have a very hard time sharing the affection for this term.
“Hockey wife” isn’t an identity I readily use to describe myself. It rubs me the wrong way. I don’t know of any other professions, besides other sports or the military, where people commonly identify themselves as a group and with a title that only describes their spouses profession. And perhaps this strikes me as particularly unfair because professional hockey remains a men-only domain. So even if the defining-yourself-by-your-partner bit didn’t feel odd, the fact that there are no hockey husbands rustles my feminist feathers. It’s hetero-normative and patriarchal and…you don’t really want me to start in on this rant, do you?
When I feel myself bristling at this term, I ask myself why I let it upset me. My answer goes something like: I am not Dave. I am not defined by Dave. Even more than that, I am not defined by Dave’s profession. I can say that all day long and while it is essentially true, it’s also not true. In this particular profession, because of the way you have to let it encompass your whole life, I am defined by it. We have to move to where Dave gets a contract. I have to base my work on the fact that our life is mobile. Dave gets time off every year of course, but it isn’t flexible. All our holidays, our down time, our family visits revolve around his schedule. So even though my resistance to this term on existential grounds are logical, they aren’t really entirely accurate. Continue reading