Chicago Blackhawks wives and babies: Behind-the-scenes with hockey families

 
 

Most days, the Chicago Blackhawks locker room is crawling with reporters looking for a quote. This day, it's crawling with ... well ... crawlers. And walkers. And a few eat-sleep-and-cry-ers.

And while all eyes are on famous names like "Hossa," "Keith" and "Seabrook," these hockey sweaters are much smaller versions than what we typically see on the United Center ice. After all, these jerseys are designed for the hockey players' tinier counterparts-their kids.

That's right: the Blackhawks are having a baby boom. In the last two and a half years, the team has added eight mini-Hawks to its ranks, with two players-to-be-named-later on their way.

"Everyone's been joking that they're the lockout babies," says Abby Sharp, wife of left wing Patrick Sharp. "We've actually had to convert part of the family room into a kids' play area. It's so much fun."

We wanted to find out what life is like for these new Blackhawks families, so we sat down with seven Blackhawks wives to talk about parenting while the team's on the road, raising kids in Chicago, and whether the hockey-playing dads are really tough enough for diaper duty.

--Story by Elizabeth Diffin. Photos by Liz DeCarlo.

 

 
 

Lene Brookbank

Husband: #17 Sheldon Brookbank, Defenseman

Kids: Bennett, 16 months; Baby #2 due in May

How would you describe your husband as a dad? He's the best. I honestly couldn't imagine doing it without him. He's so helpful and great. He takes the early shifts and changes diapers and feeds Bennettº and he's right on the floor with him playing.

And how do you handle it when Sheldon's on the road? "Handle that" is actually a great way of putting it. You get in kind of a routine; you get used to it. I think it's tougher for Bennett because he's a daddy's boy. He loves having his dad home. So for him, it's probably a little bit worse than it is for me.

Would you like to see Bennett play hockey? He likes playing mini-sticks with his dad at home, which is fun. I know that, especially growing up in Canada, it's such a part of the culture, having the kids play outside and things like that. I think that he would really enjoy it. But whatever he decides to do.

A lot of fans are kind of curious about the Blackhawks wives in general. Is there one thing you wish they knew about you?

That we are really just normal. We talk just like other girlfriends do and do the same kind of things and share the same kind of experiences. I think a lot of people would be surprised at how boring our day-to-day lives really are in the grand scheme of things.

You went to culinary school. Is that something you use in daily life?

At this stage of my life, it's more just doing it for the joy of doing it and cooking for the family. We do like to have dinner parties, although having a baby kind of limits that aspect of things. But we still like to enjoy a nice meal every once in a while.

 
 

Jana Hossa

Husband: #81 Marian Hossa, Right Wing

Kids: Mia, 28 months; Zoja, 2 months

How would you describe your husband as a dad? He loves the girls. He is a proud daddy of his little princesses. Usually men want a son, especially professional athletes. But during my pregnancies, he was so happy to find out we were having girls. Even the second time, he wanted to have another girl.

What's he like in a house surrounded by girls? When our first daughter was born, he was very careful with her. Now he is comfortable with our second baby; he has no problem changing diapers and stuff like that. And Mia loves to play with him; they run around the house and play crazy games together.

What's it like taking care of two little girls while Marian's on the road? It's not easy. But the grandmas visit us often, so that helps.

Does Mia skate yet? No, she doesn't try to skate yet. But she knows daddy goes to play hockey. And she knows the Hawks! When we are watching games on TV, she looks at him and says "Daddy" and "Hawks" or "goal," but that's it. She doesn't have  patience to watch the game for more than 30 seconds.

You're pretty far from home here in Chicago. What do you miss the most? Family and friends. But after every season, we spend the whole summer back home in Slovakia. At the beginning it was hard; different language, people, culture, traditions. But on the other hand, it is such a great experience. You travel, learn a new language, live in a different city. We are happy to be here; Chicago is a great city.

 
 

Dayna Seabrook

Husband: #7 Brent Seabrook, Defenseman

Kid: Carter, 5 months

How has life changed now that Carter's here? It's not as hard as I thought it was going to be. It's been really fun. I thought I'd be locked in the house and not be able to do anything, but he's been such a good baby. I guess I'm just not sleeping as much, but other than that, it's been really, really good.

How would you describe your husband as a dad? Brent's been amazing. He's shocked me. Not that I didn't think he'd be a good dad, but he's just so hands-on. I had a C-section, so he changed all the diapers at the beginning. He's been really, really good with Carter. I think he's excited that he was a boy, too.

Are there any responsibilities that he's taken on as his own?

He's all about prepping him to be a hockey player. So he's got these exercises that he wants him to do every day. He's got to stand, get his leg strength up, all this stuff. It's really cute, actually.

How do you feel about Carter being a hockey player?

I'd love it if he was a hockey player! I don't care what he does. I always joke with Brent that he's going to be a ballerina. We'll support him whatever he wants to do. But we're both Canadian and we'd love it if he played hockey.

Carter's middle name is "Seven," which is Brent's number. Why did you decide to do that?

We just said it kind of in passing when I was pregnant. And then we kind of forgot about it. We actually had another name picked out, and then in the hospital, Brent's like, "Well, what about Seven?" Carter Seven Seabrook has a good ring to it. It's been Brent's number his whole career. So why not?

 
 

Elina Hjalmarsson

Husband: #4 Niklas Hjalmarsson, Defenseman

Kid: Baby Boy due in April

What are you looking forward to most about being a mom? Probably just becoming a family. Niklas loves kids and he's been looking forward to this for a long time.

What kind of a dad do you think he's going to be? He's very fun. He loves to play and do family stuff. I think he's going to be very loving and fun.

What about Chicago are you excited about introducing your baby to? I just love Chicago as a city overall. We would not want to be anywhere else. It's big and it has everything, but it's still very cozy and calm. That's what I like.

You're still kind of newlyweds, and then becoming parents. How are you handling that transition? Everything just happened really fast. It is just like a blur. But it's fun. This is a new chapter in our life that we are looking forward to.

You're due in April. Do you have any plans if you go into labor during a game? If he's at an away game, I hope they put him on a plane to come here right away. And if it's a game here, hopefully they just get him off the ice!

 
 

Abby Sharp

Husband: #10 Patrick Sharp, Left Wing (Alternate Captain)

Kids: Madelyn, 25 months; Sadie, 3 months

What is it like to have two little girls in the house now? It's definitely a lot busier. I'm finding I don't have much free time to do anything aside from taking care of both of them, especially with Madelyn being a toddler now and getting into everything. But it's a lot of fun.

What about when Patrick's on the road? I don't mean to throw him under the bus or anythingº It's not too much different from when he's home because usually he's napping or resting for the game. But no, we're used to being on our own, you know, so it's really not that much different.

How would you describe Patrick as a dad? He is an awesome dad. He loves to play with Madelyn. I think now that she's getting older, and can talk and play with him, he's just in love. He has so much fun with her, comes home and just throws her around and does that kind of stuff. He's really enjoying it, I think, now that she's getting out of the baby stage.

What was it like to see your husband win the Stanley Cup? When they were playing in Boston, Patrick really wanted Madelyn to be out on the ice, just so she could have those memories. Poor Sadie. I was pregnant, so I technically say she was there too, so she can't feel left out. But now we have a ring for each girl, which is cool.

How do you handle all the talk about Patrick being the sexiest guy in the NHL? We laugh about it for sure. `Cause you know, I see him at home, and he's in his pajamas, hanging out, sleeping. We get a good laugh out of it.

 
 

Zuzana Handzus

Husband: #26 Michal Handzus, Center

Kid: Tomas, 19 months

What is Michal like as a dad? I think he's very responsible, maybe more than I am. He's a very good dad. He cares a lot about the little one. He doesn't have any problems doing the diaper changes or helping with any other responsibilities. So I cannot complain. I'm very happy to have him around.

What has been the hardest part of being far from home? I think we miss our families. It would be much more fun to have them around and to share Tomas' first steps with them and his first words. And also it's a very big help when you have family around; you don't have to get a babysitter all the time.

How have you adjusted? For us, it's hard to adjust to the winter in Chicago. With the wind blowing so hard and the cold being so bad, it's hard to get outside with a baby. We don't have much stuff to do inside and staying home all the time is not as much fun.

Do your families visit ever? Yeah, they come sometimes. My mom was here for two weeks and Michal's mom was here for a month. So they get to come here, but it's hard to fly in for just a few days. It's like a 12-hour flight and the time difference is seven hours, so it's hard.

Tomas just skated for the first time. How did that go? He got to have figure skating skates, which is funny because Michal started as a figure skater and then he switched to hockey. Tomas had so much fun. He loves hockey; he loves to watch hockey; he loves to play with the hockey sticks at home. So he enjoyed it.

 
 

Kelly-Rae Keith

Husband: #2 Duncan Keith, Defenseman (Alternate Captain)

Kid: Colton, 8 months

You've been with Duncan since you were 17. How has your relationship changed, especially since becoming parents? Colton's brought us closer. We're more of a team now, because we have to work together to raise a good boy. Obviously, it adds a little stress, too. Colton was colicky, so that's hard. Now we're having a lot of fun.

Are there any specific duties that Duncan has taken on as a dad? He helps out with the care of the male anatomy because I'm not very good at that. Feedings. I would say he's poor in the diaper-change area, but I'm sure most dads are.

Is there anything in particular you're looking forward to experiencing with your son here in Chicago? I think mainly just the experience of growing up in a city. We're from a small town and we go back in the summers. So it's nice to offer him the best of both worlds, growing up in the city and then going back to the lake house.

You played basketball in college and Duncan's obviously an athlete. Is there any sport you want him to play? Well, his dad is definitely all for him being a hockey player! But he's just kidding, whatever Colton wants to do. I think he's got good genes in him that there's a good chance he will be an athlete. Whatever sport he chooses, we'll be happy.

Charity work is important to you, both with the Blackhawks and your own charity, Keith Relief. Why is that a priority? I feel very blessed with the life I've been given, and fortunate. It's really hard to see other people who have more hardship than what I've experienced in my lifetime. That was the main reason: We wanted to help out. And the second (reason) was, being Canadian, I wanted to utilize my time here in Chicago and I wasn't able to get a work visa here. So I wanted to find a way to keep busy, but also do good work at the same time.

 

More behind-the-scenes with the Blackhawks wives and babies!

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Bennett Brookbank, 16 months, certainly seemed to love the spotlight!

 

More behind-the-scenes with the Blackhawks wives and babies!

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Dayna Seabrook (left) says she goes to Kelly-Rae Keith (right) for new mom advice.

 

More behind-the-scenes with the Blackhawks wives and babies!

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Bennett's not so sure what to think about his mom wearing dad's helmet.

 

More behind-the-scenes with the Blackhawks wives and babies!

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Kelly-Rae and Colton Keith share a sweet mom/baby moment.

 

More behind-the-scenes with the Blackhawks wives and babies!

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Carter Seabrook's daddy, Brent, is already getting him ready for lacing up the skates. That helmet's just a tad too big...

 
 
 







 
 
 
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