By Craig Handel
ESTERO, Fla. – Want an idea of what it’s like to be the wife of a minor league hockey coach?
You’re about to give birth — a few days prematurely — and your escort to the hospital is the Texas Wildcatters’ emergency backup goaltender. And he’s freaking out.
Days before or after Christmas, your husband the player has either joined a team, been traded to another team or needed 179 stitches after his face was skated over by an opposing player.
For 19 days, you man the fort with your two small children while your husband the coach goes on a road trip.
In the 13 years you’ve been married, there have been 12 moves. You’ve lived in five different Texas cities, among others.
But it’s a life that Heather Cameron has chosen.
“I knew that going along, that it would hockey, hockey, hockey,” she said.
Her husband is Malcolm Cameron, the Florida Everblades coach who just completed his first season with the ECHL team.
Of the approximately 300 days the Camerons have lived in Southwest Florida, he’s been home at night about half that time.
That means that Heather must drive 8-year-old son Brett to school, the dentist and hockey practice while also taking care of 16-month-old son Logan.
She also mows the lawn, gets groceries, pays the bills, makes sure everything in the house is running right and helps her husband with some of his hockey paperwork.
“She’s the toughest woman I know,” Malcolm said. “It was tough at first, because she didn’t understand why we had to move. But she handles it well. I’ve trusted her to raise the kids. I have long hours and she’s taking the kids to the doctors or where they need to go.
On the road again
Johnstown, Pa.; Fort Worth, Texas; Nashville, Tenn.; El Paso, Texas; Amarillo, Texas; Columbia, S.C.; Cincinnati; Columbus, Ohio; Corpus Christi, Texas; Long Beach, Calif.; Beaumont, Texas; Fort Myers, Fla.
Those are the cities the Camerons have called home since 1995.
Which did they stay in the longest?
“We were in Long Beach for two years,” said Heather, without the slightest bit of sarcasm. “In a week, I can pack, and in other week, I can organize our new place. I know where I want to put things.”
Malcolm added, “She’s a machine. I still don’t know where half the stuff is.”
Constantly moving can get slightly depressing, Heather said, especially when she gets farther away from family.
“I still have friends who say, ‘How do you do that? Moving again? Why are you doing that?’ ” she said. “But I knew what I was getting into.
“We had our tree decorated and a few days before Christmas he was traded. It devastated us. It struck us that you could be here today, gone tomorrow. So I sold our Christmas tree to a friend next door for $20 and off we went.”
On the team’s last move to Texas, Heather had to explain to Brett why they had to leave his friends.
“I still miss ’em,” he said, while writing on the Everblades whiteboard in the team’s locker room.
“But he’s a real trooper,” Heather said.
This past season, the Everblades were gone from Nov. 19 to Dec. 7 for a nine-game, 19-day road trip.
“That was tough,” Malcolm said.
Heather tries to ease the time Malcolm is away by having their boys put notes in their father’s luggage and calling him every night. On game nights, Brett will stay up with his mother and give her updates.
“When Malcolm wakes up, (hockey) is in his blood,” she said. “He is a workaholic. He can’t do anything else. But he’s such a hard worker and I admire that.
“We have heart-to-heart talks. It brings you closer. If we can get through this, we can get through anything. He’s not in the military, he’s not off to war. There are people who are in a lot worse situations.”
When she talks to players’ fiancés or girlfriends, Heather tries to let them know that the glitz and glamour wears out quickly.
“You give up your identity, you give up really good jobs,” she said. “You get in a situation where it’s all about him. It is. It’s really different. You have to know right at the beginning what you’re in for or it’s not going to work.”
Before she had Logan, Heather would invite players’ wives and girlfriends over for wine and cheese when their men played on road trips. Now they have team picnics.
“I’ve had a very successful record the past six years, primarily due to the support of my wife,” Malcolm said. “If I didn’t have her, I wouldn’t have anything.
“I’m very fortunate.”
Heather quickly replied, “We’re a team, dear.”