For the Blue Jackets, "Hockey 'n' Heels" is an event that brings together women with all levels of hockey knowledge and gives them access to resources to learn even more.
This year, in addition to an agenda that included a panel of game day officials, an exclusive Q&A with Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen, and behind-the-scenes storytelling with the Jackets' broadcasting teams, the surprise guests were Janelle Foligno and Rachel Gagner, both of whom have husbands who play for the Blue Jackets.
The two women shared stories of support from their group of players' wives and girlfriends, and laughed about their husband's superstitions, or lack thereof. They answered questions about watching their husbands play, managing the process of changing teams, and learning how to get used to seeing their husbands fight on ice.
"A lot of fans don't know the players outside the arena," Foligno said. "They don't know us, so it's nice to give them a sense of who we are, what we like to do and what impact we'd like to try to have on the community.
"We aren't just a player's spouse. We like to try to help the community in any way we can, and at the same time manage our family and have something for ourselves, whether it's a job or a hobby or community work. It's nice to showcase that and share that with others."
Foligno talked about her history as a teacher while Gagner described her path to becoming a doctor.
Gagner completed all her schooling in Canada, and while her goal is to practice in the States someday, working through those certifications has been time consuming so she will fly back for two weeks at a time to practice in Edmonton to cover for doctors when they go on vacation.
"Unfortunately, I think people stereotype hockey wives," Gagner said. "They are portrayed as if they meet these guys because they make a lot of money, and they don't do anything but spend the player's money. But our family has been in the league for 11 years now and I really haven't seen that. We have careers, have educations and are really motivated. It's been so lovely to get to know women throughout the league. And whenever someone says something along that stereotype, I let them know it's really not like that at all."
Foligno and Gagner also talked proudly about their ability to help the communities in which they live. They described projects they've been a part of throughout their tenure in the NHL that ranged from decorating rooms at the Ronald McDonald House to renovating a house for a family with a child battling cancer.
"It sounded like little things at first," Gagner said. "But seeing the wives take the time even to visit a hospital, it made a huge difference. I'd be going on rounds the day after a visit and I'd hear kids still talking about it the next day."
After the event concluded, Foligno and Gagner were thrilled to have been part of something that celebrated women and their love of hockey.
"I think there are so many women hockey fans," Foligno said. "It's great to celebrate it and bring them all together so they can talk about it amongst themselves and celebrate it in their community."