Till playoffs do them part

TODD SAELHOF -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 3:03 PM ET


 Change is good. The Calgary Flames like it, obviously, as they get ready to embark on their first playoff series in eight years.

 And so, too, do their better halves, who are experiencing a different home life this spring than in recent years.

 No grumpy husbands. No consoling sessions by family and friends. And no shipping out of town as soon as the regular season concludes.

 "We're not packing," says Stephanie Gauthier, the bubbly wife of defenceman Denis. "We're relaxing."

 "We're enjoying the nice weather in Calgary," agrees Chris Clark's wife Kim.

 "We're going to the zoo. We never really see this nice weather."

 That's because they're rarely still in Calgary -- and rarely in an upbeat mood -- at this time of year.

 "He's very excited," Stephanie reveals.

 "It's hard to keep that smile off his face and he's got some needling for that."

 "Our families are excited," adds Kim.

 "Everyone back home -- Chris' family and my family and friends -- is calling to congratulate us and to hopefully not expect us for at least a couple of weeks."

 While the players focus on the playoff grind ahead, their significant others have to adjust accordingly.

 Stephane Yelle's fiancee, for example, has suggested the players' wives and girlfriends can spend more time together, especially when the Flames hit the road.

 "We don't know any different because we've never been in the playoffs," Stephanie says. "I just know Denis is happy now.

 "It's been tough at end of the year when he knows he's not going to be in the playoffs.

 "He's been here seven years now and every year it's the same thing.

 "We have to start packing the house because we know we're going home.

 "And maybe one year when he was injured and he couldn't do anything to help them, then he was really hard to live with.

 "This year it's been so much better than the past years."

 Kim agrees.

 "Now I think it's nice because it takes the pressure off. It was hard when they were losing and it was expected the fans were upset."

 But not any more.

 In fact, the wives are noticing quite the change in attitude of the Flames faithful.

 More cheer and less jeer -- and a lot more communication with the players about town.

 "I don't know if it's the fact we're in the playoffs or because we've been here for a long time but now, wherever we go, we get a little attention," Stephanie says.

 "Everybody wants to talk to him, everybody wants to say, 'Good luck and keep going.' You can see a big difference when you go out somewhere. When you go to restaurant, a lot of people are saying, 'Work hard.' I've noticed that a lot now that we're doing good."

 "That's true," agrees Kim.

 "When we do go out, people approach him and are excited to meet him and stuff because they're doing well."

 Heck, they're playoff-bound, wives and all.

 "We've seen the playoffs in Saint John when they won the (Calder) Cup (in 2001) but nothing like here," Kim adds.

 "It's not the NHL. It's totally different."

 A good different.


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