For women in the world of men’s professional hockey like Amanda Kuhn, life looks more like “Bourne Identity” than W’s “Hockey Wives”. An upcoming podcast created by Piper CJ and hosted by Rocket Sports Media aims to tell the unique and incredible stories of these women.
“I think what you’re doing is really important. Our lives are nothing like the glamour they show on television.”
Amanda spoke in hushed tones over the dramas of corruption, in-team fighting, and hiding money under mattress as we spoke over the phone. “I think what you’re doing is really important. Our lives are nothing like the glamour they show on television. No one knows what we really go through. We all really support this effort to tell our real experiences.”
That’s exactly what we’ll do. This project aims to give voice to the unique lived experiences of women in the world of men’s professional hockey. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
Before we dive into Amanda’s life as a hockey wife, it’s important that we zoom out from our limited view of the NHL and take a snapshot of professional hockey around the globe. With the addition of Las Vegas, 31 NHL teams currently rule in North America, accompanied by their AHL teams, and most with an affiliated ECHL team. When we hop across the pond, the numbers quadruple. Teams play all across Scandinavia, Russia, Eastern, Western and Mediterranean Europe, not to mention the professional teams in Asia, Africa, Eurasia, and beyond.
Professional teams, as opposed to amateur teams and leagues, are defined by monetary compensation as players and are paid for their performance. In Europe, salaries have the potential to range from the mid tens of thousands to cool millions (with Russia’s KHL per-team cap of $22 million). Salaries vary widely depending on status, organization, country, and athlete. It’s no surprise then that experience will also vary widely per team and country.
After time spent in the AHL, Amanda and her husband Jerry would take the plunge that many pro-athletes follow to pursue their dreams and professions abroad. While an exposé on the struggles of culture shock, loneliness, language barriers, and the demands put on wives and partners to be resourceful and independent would be the basis for an outstanding story on its own, Amanda and Jerry were about see hockey through the eyes of James Bond.
“There’s no other word for it, we were on a corrupt team.”
“There’s no other word for it, we were on a corrupt team.” Amanda doesn’t use the word lightly. “We would walk up to the rink and stand outside it and wait. A man would drive up in a truck and throw a paper bag at Jerry and drive away. The bag was full of wads of cash.” She laughs now, but at the time, it was anything but funny.
“It was in Jerry’s contract that the team had to pay his taxes. That’s common in contracts for 99 per cent of imports.” Between the years of 2012-2014, this Slovenian team was heavily entrenched in backdoor dealings and undocumented exchanges.
Amanda struggles to believe what they were put through. The team placed the Kuhn family in a precarious position. The Kuhns were left without the option to do the right thing, lest there be a breach in contract, and Jerry’s time with his hockey team be terminated. It was a form of player extortion. “They refused to pay our taxes, so we couldn’t even open a bank account. We had to hide money around our apartment in Slovenia. It was terrifying.”
After many years of scandal, their particular team has finally been disbanded and ejected from the league, but their troubles in Europe were far from over. The following seasons would meet their own brand of troubles, but this time the struggles would come from within the hockey family in the form of a teammate’s partner.
“For the most part, the women you meet in the hockey world are amazing. No one understands what you’re going through the way these women—these WAGs do. We have an amazing community and we’re there for each other, and as much as my girlfriends from back home or from my home town try to understand, they just can’t.” But that hasn’t always been Amanda’s experience.
“I was pregnant at the time,” she begins the tale of their transition to a new country, setting the stage for the trials abroad. The dilemma in Slovenia was incredibly difficult on Jerry and Amanda. She admits that the country is beautiful and she feels blessed for having been there, but the pair was eager to leave. The next season was spent in Italy where they hoped for a better life pursuing the career he loved.
“I befriended a girl (who we’ll call Sara) without knowing the back story and drama that had gone on in the seasons before. She was wonderful, we were good friends, I watched her kids, we hung out all the time…” But then things changed. Unknowingly, Amanda simultaneously befriended a group of women who were at odds with Sara. This led to an unparalleled falling-out.
“Sara’s boyfriend punched him. Just attacked him while he was showering.”
“The things she said to me were horrible. She confronted me in person, she ruined the year for me, and it would have been enough for it to stay between us. It was bad enough. But she brought the boys into it.” Sara had goaded her partner into waiting for Jerry Kuhn after practice one day. While Jerry was in the showers, he was jumped. “Sara’s boyfriend punched him. Just attacked him while he was showering.”
And yet, they stayed. They stayed for the season. They stayed in Europe. They stayed in hockey.
The Kuhns family will be entering their third year in Germany. “I’m a small down girl. I’m not from a wealthy family. I thought I would go to school, get a job, and stay in Michigan. I never would have imaged that I’d be in Europe and I never could have dreamed that this would be our life, but I absolutely love it. Every moment of it has been so special and amazing. I am so happy with our lives together and even though it’s hard living out of a suitcase, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
The twists and turns are incredible, but doing what you love with the one you love makes everything worth it. Stories like Amanda’s will be featured in an upcoming docu-series, created and produced by Piper CJ. The series is scheduled to air this upcoming fall and can be found on Rocket Sports Media, iTunes, and all podcast platforms.
Stories will be posted as we meet with fascinating women in leagues across North America and beyond as we ramp up in preparation for the podcast’s release. 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.