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Road Trips According to the Other Sharks Roster

A Look at the Life on the Road for Players' Wives and Girlfriends

by Missy Zielinski / sjsharks.com

After the latest four-game road swing, the Sharks wrapped-up their fifth road trip this season where they spent at least seven days traveling around North America. 

And by the end of 2016-17, they will have logged the second-most travel miles in the league according to SB Nation's On the Forecheck.

48,872 miles in fact.

While the travel schedule is taxing for Sharks players, it can be just as hard for their significant others - whether it's the first trip or years into a relationship or career. 

"Brutal…its hard all around," Sharks forward Joe Thornton's wife, Tabea, said.

Yet the Sharks better halves have learned how to make the best of their unique situation, even though it has not always been an easy thing to do. 

For defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic's wife, Martine Auclair, she didn't just move to the Bay Area as a teenager when her husband was drafted by San Jose at the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. She also spoke a different language, which meant it was going to be a little bit of culture shock.

"We were just kids (Martine was 19-years-old) when Marc started playing for the Sharks," Auclair said. "It was a bit tough for me to adjust because I didn't speak English that well."

Once Auclair badly burned herself, but didn't want to go to the hospital because of the possible language barrier she faced.

"I didn't know how to explain what happened and I was worried I wouldn't understand the nurses and doctors."

The duo also has a trio of dogs who seem to "wait for Marc to leave to get sprayed by skunks."

"Everytime!" she laughed. "It's a running joke now."

Goaltender Aaron Dell's wife, Kelly, also experienced adversity immediately following Aaron's post-college career, moving to Pennsylvania, Utah, British Columbia and Massachusetts before putting roots down with the Sharks organization and moving to San Jose in 2015-16.

"Each season has been different than the last," Kelly said. "I've learned to expect the unexpected."

Yet over time, the two have both found ways to make the time spent away less difficult by leaning on those around them for support. 

"I usually watch the games with friends or a few Sharks ladies," Auclair said. "The best part is the second family that you get and being surrounded by [people] that really understand what you are going through."

"With the encouragement of family and friends, I decided to start my blog," Kelly said. "I noticed when I wrote out my thoughts, I immediately felt more relaxed and had more clarity about whatever situation I was in."

When Kelly writes blog posts specifically about hockey, she even gets contacted by other hockey wives who are in the same situation as her.

Whether you're a first year NHL player, like Dell, or a grizzled NHL veteran, the hardships are still pretty universal.

With more than 1,400 career games played since joining the NHL during the 1997-98 season, road trips have been a part of Joe and Tabea Thornton's lifestyle for more than a decade, but it hasn't made things less challenging. 

Now with two young children, Tabea has the added responsibility to teach her son, River, and daughter, Ayla, about why their dad has to travel so much.

"There are two routines - the daddy's home routine and the daddy's gone routine," she said.

"With River, he doesn't really understand why daddy leaves and is gone so long sometimes, and for Ayla, I had to explain to her that everybody has a job. Her job is to do homework and go to school and daddy's job is to go on the road and play hockey."

As for teaching the kid's discipline, Tabea doesn't feel as much pressure to be the "bad cop" with the kids on a regular basis, but it can be a struggle for Joe, who has to balance that with quality time.

"During the season when he gets home from a trip, Joe is so excited because he hasn't seen the kids for a week," Tabea said. "He doesn't want to waste time disciplining them. In the summer, however, dad's a little different, he understands he can't just be the fun dad."

The hockey season can be a different experience for Sharks players and their significant others, but last season Martine, Kelly and Tabea, as well as the rest of the team's other halves, traveled like the Sharks for a day.

During the Stanley Cup Final, they got to experience a day-in-the-life of the Sharks players, including a chartered flight from San Jose to Pittsburgh and back, all in a span of 24 hours.

It was especially memorable for Tabea, who has only seen Joe play on the road twice in the last 11 years.

"It was unbelievable," she said. "It was so exhausting, but I would do that every year. I loved it."

"When you spend so much time with a group of people during a long season, it's nice to be rewarded with a nice trip to see the team play," Auclair added. "We had so much fun and it was a great way to relax at a very stressful time."

No matter the background, living situation or players' position, the challenge that the Sharks better halves experience are all similar, yet they have had to face different hardships and life lessons along the way. However, the pride that comes along with being a part of the Sharks organization always serves as a friendly reminder of what it's all about.

"We're so lucky to be Sharks, we couldn't ask for a better team or city," Auclair finished.

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