Canadiens’ wives, girlfriends bonding through learning to play hockey

Some of the Montreal Canadiens' wives and girlfriends have started getting together to learn how to play hockey. (Photo via sydneykthompson_/Instagram)

LA PRAIRIE, Que.— This is a game in which Price plays forward, Weber shoots left and Petry isn’t more than five-foot-five on skates.

No, this isn’t some other dimension; this is a hockey practice/scrimmage featuring the wives and girlfriends of the Montreal Canadiens.

On Wednesday, eight of them — including Angela Price, Bailey Weber and Julie Petry — turned up at an old-school rink on the south shore to participate in their sixth session of this nature. They have dubbed themselves the ‘Hab Nots,’ a name they chose in self-deprecation, but this is no joke.

Sure, there’s a lot of chuckling involved, but these women are serious about learning how to play hockey, and about bonding over the thing that brought them all together in the first place.

How serious?

"I broke my tailbone in one of the first sessions, but I’ve been playing through it," said Sydney Thompson, who founded this idea along with Courtney Petrachek (Victor Mete’s girlfriend).

"Nate thought it was a bone bruise. You know, normal hockey guy, he was like, ‘Keep going, babe. You’re fine.’ So I went about it and a month later I realized I should probably show the doctor. Turns out I had a fracture.

"But I didn’t want to fall behind. I’m an ‘athlete,’ I don’t want to be a wimp. I’m playing through it."

To know how dedicated these ladies are is to watch a determined Petry barrel her way towards the net on a breakaway before managing to score a wraparound goal as she tumbles to the ice with glove soaring through the air and elbow pad flailing from her arm.

The others gather briefly to make sure she’s alright — she’s clearly fine, though it takes her some time to catch her breath from laughing so hard — and then they skate off chasing Weber, who’s after a goal at the other end.

"You can see all the girls have a competitive edge," says Weber, who grew up playing Ringette, but never tried her hand at hockey.

At one point, Petrachek shows some of it — shaking her gloves off to engage Sarah Byron (Paul’s wife) in a play fight. But Byron skates right through without giving that idea much thought.

"Everyone’s very close," Byron says. "We try to get together a lot. We try to plan nights every month. We have a very close group."

Isn’t this how it should be? This is one of several activities the ‘Hab Nots’ do together. They watch games together when the Canadiens hit the road, they splinter off into groups for near-daily workouts, and they reconvene for dinners, and the odd baby or bridal shower.

That’s all standard fare for NHL hockey wives and girlfriends. But Weber, who’s been around various groups through her 11 years in Nashville and four in Montreal, says there’s something special about this crew.

"I’ve been really fortunate that over the years all the groups of girls I’ve had the chance to be with have been pretty awesome, but never to the extent that we want to get together on a Wednesday afternoon to play hockey," she said.

"So it’s really special to see all the connections."

Price says this bond is also a function of how tightly-knit this edition of the Canadiens is.

"This is the closest team I’ve seen since 2009," she adds.

"You can tell from the way they play for each other," says Thompson. "Nate was talking about how they really had to come together as a team to win (Tuesday’s game against Columbus). And I can tell it’s something special here because I see how happy he is here."

Angela Price (left) and Julie Petry (right) pose for a picture before their sixth practice with the ‘Hab Nots.’ (Eric Engels)

For Jaclyn Phillips (Keith Kinkaid’s girlfriend), this is the kind of environment she was hoping to land in after Keith split last season between New Jersey and Columbus.

"It’s awesome," she started. "Nothing better to just get out with everyone and get together and have a good time like this. It’s fun. It’s bonding. The organization has been very welcoming. Everyone’s been so welcoming and open, and they want to have this bond. Everyone wants to get together. I’d categorize it as welcoming and warm."

The evidence is plain to see. The hour the women spent on the ice on Wednesday featured crossover drills, puckhandling drills, backwards-skating drills, shooting drills and a close-quarters game played between the blue lines. Their coach put them through the wringer, and they were cheering each other on and cracking each other up the entire time.

The atmosphere in the room was just the same, with Petrachek’s music playing while equipment acquired through Canadiens reps was being neatly filed into hand-me down hockey bags.

Missing in action this time around were Veronika Vevuska (Tomas Tatar’s girlfriend), Hannah Bjursten (Christian Folin’s fiancée) and Elizabeth Kranz (Laval Rocket captain Xavier Ouellet’s wife), who all took part in the initial sessions.

Petry says there’s hope they’ll be back before long and adds that whoever else was missing has been invited, and that enough jerseys have been ordered for anyone else who wants to join.

All the women already participating have gained a newfound appreciation for what their partners do on a daily basis.

Weber notes she’s always appreciated what Shea does to play hockey at its highest level, but this experience is giving her and the rest of the women an enriched perspective.

Petrachek agrees.

"You don’t realize at first the level of coordination it takes," she says.

"There’s skating, and then there’s the puck, and you’re looking to see who’s on you and you’re thinking about how to dribble the puck properly. You don’t realize how much skill and technique goes into it until you go out there."

That’s a big part of the reason they wanted to do this.

Weber said it’s that, but it’s also that they felt this would be the funniest thing they could do together.

With the improvement they’ve tracked over the last six weeks, it’s become much more than just that to these ladies.

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