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Evansville at Komets
Faceoff: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday
Radio: WOWO, 1190-AM
Not every fairy tale love story is the same.
In 2004, Komets defenseman Tyler Butler met his future wife Hollie in a small honky-tonk bar in Amarillo, Texas. After they started dating, he told her someday he was going to play in the National Hockey League, jokingly he says now.
``Oh, whatever,'' she says with a laugh. ``I did not believe that.''
In fact, she had never been to a hockey game before, but when things got serious between them, she realized being a hockey wife would require lots of traveling, and she embraced that.
Good thing, because the Butlers have lived in 10 cities over the last 10 years. They used to be able to pile everything into the back of his SUV and move on. When their first child was born, they also added a little trailer behind the truck. As the family increased, the trailer got a little bigger until now it's a full rental truck. It takes two or three days to pack and two or three more to drive to their destination.
The Butlers have gone from two to six and soon seven. Teagan is 5, Falyn is 4, Rylin is 2 and Kamryn is 7 months, with another due in August.
Being married to a hockey player is already different than most spouses, but adding four children increases the challenges but also the benefits. When the team is playing at home, Dad is back at the apartment in the early afternoon to help out. When the team is on the road, Mom can be overwhelmed.
``When Tyler is here, my life is a lot easier because he does so much,'' Hollie said. ``He does all the laundry and so much around the house. When he's gone, I'm on 24/7. Somebody always needs attention, and they are usually lined up. If I'm on the phone, they all need me at the same time, and I don't use the bathroom by myself. I haven't done that in years.''
Luckily, her husband has been around a lot more than usual this season. The Komets have had six long road trips, but they've never been gone for as long as a week. Last year, when he was playing with Arizona of the Central Hockey League, the SunDogs had three 18-day road trips, including two almost back-to-back around playing four games in five nights at home.
``I believe everything happens for a reason, and we are on a journey,'' Hollie said. ``I believe in being positive.
``I just get up every day and do my best. Some days are great days, and I go to bed every night and say, `Good job.' Other days, I say, `I'm going to do better tomorrow.' I just get up every day.''
She never has to worry about being bored in the three-bedroom apartment. It helps that the other players' wives and girlfriends are a team, too. They are all in the same situation, often being unable to work because of immigration status, sometimes trying to make a family life work with little other family support and generally starting over in someplace new each season.
``Every time we move, that's your family while you are here,'' Hollie said. ``Everybody becomes a family because it's important to be there for each other. There are always differences and whatnot, but it's like when you have a disagreement with your sister. You are still family.''
One benefit is they get to see different parts of the country, experiencing the best of each city. They meet amazing people and develop lifelong friendships quickly. Wherever they are traveling, there's always somebody to stop and see along the way.
Another factor of being a hockey wife is the possibility of moving midseason because of a trade or being released. The Butlers have some things packed and labeled in bins for quick exits, though Tyler has never been traded.
``It's stressful at times now that we have kids when we have to move unexpectedly, but at the same time we're used to it,'' she said. ``It keeps us from accumulating too many things, and it keeps things simple in life. As soon as we figure out what's going on if we are staying or leaving, we just start problem solving. Things usually work out one way or the other.''
Going through situations like that can either tear a marriage apart or pull the couple together. Something major would have to happen to present a real challenge, the Butlers say, because they've already been through so much. They understand home is where they make it, and not a place on the map.
Though they never tried to time any of their pregnancies, only one baby was born during the season, and the team bus dropped Tyler off at the hospital on the way home from a game. He's been at all four births.
The girls think it's neat whenever somebody asks their dad for an autograph.
Like any large family working on one salary, the Butlers also work together on finances.
``Learning different ways to save money for our family has been kind of a passion of mine over the years,'' said Hollie, who also has a psychology degree and someday will finish her master's. ``You never know when you're going to need it to get through the summer. There have been a lot of times when we've had to go through our savings to get through summers.''
If things get tight financially, the kids never notice, and that's all that matters.
``Everybody spends money on different things,'' he said. ``We just put the money back. As long as the kids have food in their bellies and clothes on their backs, we're happy.''
And they really are. There's always a lot of love in the Butler apartment. Somebody is always giggling or wants to cuddle, and the important ones always come first.
``Our lives are pretty fun,'' Tyler said. ``I'm really lucky. I really am.''
And that's what fairy tales are supposed to be about.