They are as vital a part of the NHL as any of its players, yet their goals don't register in any record books and their assists won't ever show up on "SportsCenter."
They're the women the entertainers, professionals, homemakers who are married to NHL players.
None of them live on the now-famous, silicone-saturated Wisteria Lane. They don't dream of Botox injections or trysts with the gardener. They're not in it for kicks or cash, but for the love of the gamers who suck up the spotlight.
In more normal times for the NHL, having the ol' puck and chain around on a full-time basis was at the top of players' wives' wish lists. But as the clichι goes, "Be careful what you wish for you may get it." Thanks to the NHL's core meltdown this past season, they got it, all right.
The question now is, do they still want it?
"I want to say the last year was great, and that it was fantastic having Wes home every day but it wasn't," Kerry-Anne Walz said with the kind of world-weary laugh only other mothers of three can completely appreciate. "In the beginning when it was rough, I was like, 'Oh my gosh, do I really want to have him home with me all the time? I might have to go find a job myself.'"
Her husband, Minnesota Wild center Wes Walz, didn't get to wear his familiar NHL jersey this year. He didn't get to wear any jerseys European, minor-league or otherwise as a matter of fact. He did manage to wear a bit on Kerry-Anne's nerves, though. That's because the ritual of training and preparation, so familiar to all athletes, went the way of Cooperalls and Chilliwack (the band, not the city) this season.
"It was hard because Wes is so used to his routine," she said. "Some aspects of him being home were great. He played a much bigger role in the kids' lives; they love that, because it's usually me, and I can only do so much with them.
"But for the last 15-20 years, he's used to getting up, going to practice, working out. All of a sudden, that routine was gone. It was frustrating for him to find a groove again."
Getting one's groove back is far easier when that groove needs feeding and changing every few hours. Indeed, the responsibilities of being a parent whether you're a rookie or a grizzled veteran with wet-wipes and soothing words at the ready are more than enough to fill your day, lockout or no lockout.
"Chris was as frustrated this year as any other player," said Erin Phillips, whose husband, Senators blueliner Chris Phillips, played a full season for Brynas of the Swedish League during the lockout. "It made it a lot easier, though, that we myself and our two children went with him to Europe. He had much more time to himself in Sweden, so he taught our son how to skate and he's basically been with our daughter since she was born. I think that having a lot more family time kept his mind off all the bad (labor) news that was coming from back home."
Kristen and Michael Peca stayed at their upstate New York home throughout the lockout. They capitalized on the down time by enjoying time with their two children.
"I really enjoyed having Michael home," Kristen said of the Isles' captain.
"Our daughter Emily was born during the (2003-04) season; the day we had her, Michael took off on a two-week training camp, then they started the season on the road. It felt like he was away the entire time, and for me it was just a really long year.
"So Michael had a lot of time to bond with Emily this year and she's turned into a real daddy's girl. He was tremendously upset he wasn't playing, but he's definitely had some quality time with the kids. You can't put a price on that."
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