Review of Hockey Wives, Episode 2


Wendy Tippett (left to right), Emilie Blum, Kodette LaBarbera, Nicole Brown, Tiffany Parros, Noureen DeWulf, Maripier Morin, Brijet Whitney, Martine Forget, Jenny Scrivens star in "Hockey Wives." (HO-W Network/CP)

If the first episode of Hockey Wives was like the All-Star Game—a shiny, tarted-up version of the real thing—then the second episode is a Tuesday-night game in the middle of January: the unglamorous grind where the real work happens. This episode introduces a few new wives, and it’s got a much quieter and more grounded tone—an abrupt shift from the Real Housewives-style premiere.

This week’s storylines revolve around people grappling with change, with varying stakes and degrees of success:

Martine Forget
We meet the wife of Maple Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier in her Toronto home, along with her infant son, Tyler. Martine is a model from Montreal, and she reflects on the dramatic change when her husband was traded from L.A. to Toronto, where things are a little, uh, unhealthy.

“If they win, it’s because of the player that scores,” she says. “And if they lose, it’s because of Jonathan.”

Martine is concerned about returning to modelling after gaining 40 lb. and having an emergency C-section that precluded working out for three months. She brings Tyler along to a meeting at her agency, and there follows the most insanely awkward exchange with three humourless, pointy fashion types.

Pointy Thing One asks how her skin is post-baby: “Like, did you get any rashes?” Martine winces and says, “I don’t know if I should tell you—I have stretch marks,” like she’s confessing a murder to a priest.

The agency people (I’m using the term “people” only in the loosest and most academic sense here) nod sagely and ask if they can take some Polaroids because clients will want to know how she looks now. This is where my notes say, “This business is [all-caps word I am not allowed to write on this website].”

Martine looks horrified, and then Pointy Thing Two says, “If you want to or you are ready to move into a different category…”. This is floated the way you would tell an aging racehorse that you know about this great spa called Elmer’s that it should totally check out. These other modelling categories apparently include the young mom or mature professional, and some castings even ask for a mom with a baby. So, good news, Martine—you are allowed to continue drawing breath and making a living!

Kodette LaBarbera
The wife of Anaheim goalie Jason LaBarbera instantly becomes the show’s emotional ballast. Her husband is bouncing between the Ducks and their AHL affiliate in Virginia while she remains in Calgary with their two young sons. Ryder, six, has autism, and Calgary offers excellent therapy resources and the stability he needs, so Kodette and Jason decided it was best to split the family up during the season. At one point, she calculates it could be almost a year between date nights for them.

“It’s been hard to stay connected,” she says. “I have to be honest about that.”

The most touching sequence in the episode is Kodette and her boys visiting Jason in California after months apart (just to plan the visit, they first had to confirm he’d be in Anaheim through the weekend).

“I’m really excited to see him,” she says, face radiantly happy, as they walk toward his hotel room. “He’s just our safe spot and I miss that about him.”

Once they all get re-acquainted—something that’s particularly difficult for Ryder—there’s Jason down on the floor playing with action figures or swinging his boys up in the air while Kodette looks on happily. And then real family life kicks in: Ryder has a fever and maybe needs to puke, and the boys won’t share a bed, so the couple who hasn’t had a date in months will divide and conquer, each sleeping with one kid.

Later, Kodette takes her sons to a pizza place to meet up with a couple of the other wives, but Ryder has had enough. “One of the hardest things about being an autistic parent is you feel like you should explain to everyone why he’s acting this way, but you don’t owe anyone an explanation,” she says in voiceover as they pack up and walk out of the restaurant in a hurry.

Kodette’s story is about real problems and victories and tough choices, and there are frequently tears in her voice or spilling down her cheeks (she’s been frank in interviews about the fact that she’s doing the show to raise autism awareness).

Reality shows that introduce serious emotional weight can end up richer for it, or the contrast between the surrounding shallowness and things that actually matter ends up looking crass and wrong. There’s obvious substance and dignity to Kodette and Jason, so you have to hope their story lands in the same way.

Brijet Whitney
The family of newly retired winger Ray Whitney goes to Las Vegas for son Hudson’s first hockey tournament on the road. While they clown around at breakfast, Brijet says, “I feel like I kinda run the ship, and Ray brings the fun to it.” She says this with happy appreciation, not martyr-with-a-man-child-husband malice.

Brijet talks about how they’ve gotten accustomed to running separate lives, and now that he’s no longer playing, they have to figure out how to fit them together. At the hockey tournament, Ray responds with howls and full-body lurches, like he might be able to control the action on the ice from up in the stands. Brijet asks him if he’ll be sad it’s over.

“I’m sure at some point I will be, but I’m 42,” he says, shrugging and looking like he’s blinking back tears. “I keep reminding myself this game can’t go forever.”

Brijet mentions, again, the astronomical rate of divorce after retirement. “I feel like you’re gonna get sick of me nagging at you,” she says. “Well, don’t nag at me then,” Ray shoots back, and they laugh for real. You get the feeling these two are best friends and they’re going to be just fine.

Ice Chips
And finally, there were a few lighter insights gleaned from this week’s episode:

· Maripier Morin is intensely ambitious about her career—which she figures will come in handy someday when boyfriend Brandon Prust retires and she’s bringing home the bacon: “I’m gonna be the sugar mama, so I don’t think he wants me to quit my job.”

· George Parros has a clothing line called Violent Gentlemen. “The name was inspired by these giants that could wreak havoc, but they don’t because they follow a code,” his wife Tiffany explains. “So they’re violent gentlemen.”

· Ray and Brijet Whitney will be okay as he adjusts to retirement—but we can’t promise the same for their gardener. In one scene, Ray pads around the pool deck, micromanaging the design of their flower planters out of sheer boredom while doofy music plays over the footage. “Are you putting any colour or anything up there?” he asks the gardener. “It’s got a good fragrance out here.”

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