If “Hockey Wife” were a job title, what would be the position description? What are the duties, fireable offenses, workplace uniforms? Over the past few weeks, interviews with wives and girlfriends of hockey players across the NHL, AHL and abroad have painted a clear picture of just how much is demanded of women in the world of men’s hockey. This fall, Rocket Sports Media will host a groundbreaking podcast by Piper CJ diving into questions like these.
“An expert packer, a travel agent, a single mom…”
“A psychologist, a teacher, a childcare expert…”
“A fashion model, a personal chef, a dog walker…”
The answers blur together after a while with a central theme rising to the top, a hockey wife needs to be ready for anything, capable of anything, and willing to do whatever it takes to take care of herself, her family, and her hockey player.
Ontario native, Michelle McGrattan, had a good job, a stable life, and big dreams of her future in advertising. In 2010, she would have referred to herself as the type of woman who put her career first. Michelle would not have dreamed of following a man from city to city, or placing her identity on the back burner. Yet, her life, her plans, and her very identity would turn on its head upon meeting NHL’er Brian McGrattan.
“I wanted to make sure I didn’t lose myself in this whole process. When you’re with a professional hockey player, it’s all about him, 24/7.”
In 2017, she sighs while she speaks to me on the phone and says, “I wanted to make sure I didn’t lose myself in this whole process. When you’re with a professional hockey player, it’s all about him, 24/7.”
In their first year of marriage, Michelle would learn that her job title included so much more than the career she had hoped for in advertising. At the time, the McGrattans were living in Nashville while Brian played for the Predators.
Michelle spoke fondly of the big, colonial home they were able to rent, the friends she had made in Nashville’s system, and the process of trying to get her feet beneath her and find her “thing” while in Nashville. McGrattan was experiencing something many women go through: as a career-driven Canadian, being unable to formally work in Tennessee without an American work visa was proving emotionally challenging.
“Things were going really well, over all. There were some struggles, but I knew I’d figure it out. Until one day I needed to go to the dentist. And if you’re from the States, you know, unlike in Canada, they often put you under while they work on your teeth.”
Michelle was sedated for all of forty-five minutes in Nashville, Tennessee. Hockey fans know that your team, your player, and your outlook for the season can change with a drop of a hat. It’s no different for wives and players themselves, as forty-five minutes was all it would take to change life for the McGrattans.
“When I woke up I was drugged, I was confused, and I had all of these texts. My phone was full of missed calls and messages telling me that Brian had been traded. He was gone. I didn’t even get to say goodbye… By the time I was leaving the dentist, he was already in Calgary with the Flames.” Brian may have a new flame on his uniform, but Michelle was entering her own trial by fire.
“I had to do everything. I had to pack a giant house by myself, ship things by myself, carry things by myself. I had to get everything from Nashville to Calgary by myself. It was so stressful, it took me three full weeks, I lost ten pounds, I had no help. I was completely alone.”
“It was so stressful, it took me three full weeks, I lost ten pounds, I had no help. I was completely alone.”
Yet, somehow, she managed. She and women like her find the strength to do things they haven’t been trained to do, to overcome obstacles they couldn’t imagine facing, and rise to the occasion time after time so that their partner can continue playing the game he loves.
Michelle’s loneliness is echoed across nearly every interview. Packing, moving, and relocating is done largely alone, whether you’re sent from the NHL to the AHL, or trying to wrangle two dogs and a toddler from the United States to Russia.
For the women in the world of men’s hockey, visas, paperwork, renting apartments, and figuring out schooling is done largely alone. Whether it be the minor struggles like digging yourself out of a snowbank in a blizzard, or life’s major curveballs like hospitalization or premature birth, most women have to face these challenges without the help of their husbands, boyfriends and partners.
Stories like Michelle’s will be featured on a podcast scheduled to debut this fall, created and hosted by Piper CJ. The show explores and gives voice to the incredible women who operate behind the scenes of the sport we love.
Please tune in to hear the captivating, sometimes bizarre, and always worth-while stories of wives, girlfriends, mothers, sisters, and female athletes themselves as we explore women in the world of professional hockey in our upcoming docu-series.
Details will be made available here on Rocket Sports Media.