Much more than a missus

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 10:16 AM ET

When Stephane Yelle heads out on a road trip with the Flames, his wife Susan also goes to the airport.

It's not to say a tearful goodbye; it's the beginning of her commute to work.

When the Flames are on the road for extended trips, Susan Yelle often makes the two-hour flight to Denver, where they met and live in the off-season, to work in the intensive care unit caring for premature babies at Presbyterian/St. Lukes Medical Center.

"I'm a little stubborn, you could say. I'm not willing to give it up," says Yelle, an advanced nurse practitioner.

"That way I can keep up my skills ... and keep my career going. I still want to have my own career."

It's tempting to believe the typical hockey wife spends her days shopping, drinking coffee and going for manicures.

But that's not the case.

And they're not all aspiring actresses or models. (Don't forget, though, some are very successful at that endeavour, such as Cale Hulse's wife, former Baywatch cast member Gena Lee Nolin.)

The wife of Carolina Hurricanes forward Erik Cole was a state trooper in New York, while Bret Hedican -- also with the Hurricanes -- is married to 1992 Olympic figure skating gold medallist Kristi Yamaguchi.

With husbands pulling in six- and seven-figure salaries, these women don't have to work.

Many are busy raising families, so they aren't in the workforce. And some simply can't work, with the red-tape headaches of getting a job in a foreign country too much to bear.

There are a few spouses on every team in that boat, trying to work their way through the system to use their skills. Many have degrees but find the bureaucracy too difficult to navigate.

Which is why so many volunteer, some on their own, many as a group, be it through their Better Halves charitable endeavours or for organizations they hold near and dear to their hearts.

Krista Ference, the better half of Flames defenceman Andrew Ference, was a professional snowboarder and an alternate at the 1998 Olympics. A couple of years after retiring from the sport, she was working as an assistant for a television production company.

"It was the bottom-of-the-barrel, latte-fetching job but it was a lot of fun and I was treated great. They've told me any time I want to come back, I'd be welcome," she said.

"But I thought about it and am fortunate to be able to stay home and spend time with (their daughter) Ava and want to take that opportunity."


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