Admittedly, I have a fairly easy lifestyle. Daily life in Italy consists of waking up, getting Linden up and ready for the day, going for coffee with my friend Jo, going to the grocery store, hanging out with my family most of the day, maybe going for a walk, giving Linden a bath and getting him ready for bed.
From the outside looking in, I can understand how people might think hockey wives couldn't possibly have a care in the world. I know many people have this impression that we are mindless bimbos who are more concerned with shopping or having our nails done than anything else. I wish it were that simple. I wish that was all I had to think about! Unfortunately, it isn't.
Playing in Europe IS stressful. There are so many things that I have to worry about here that I would never have thought twice about at home. In the US, while teams may do a bit of 'under-the-table' business, most everything is legitimate and legal. Paperwork is filed properly, rules are followed, and everyone is held to their part.
Since the day I arrived in Italy, I have had to fight (or beg) the ownership for everything - even things that were in our contract. From a gym pass and doctor appointments to my VISA.
Upon arriving, the owner's wife was supposed to pick me up, take me to the police station, and fill out all of the appropriate paperwork for my VISA. I asked her about it twice. First she ignored me, then she said, 'No, you are fine, you don't need anything.' I assumed she knew what she was talking about. My mistake ... but I'll get back to that later.
We were also supposed to be given medical cards (something that was specifically laid out in our contract) so that Linden and I would have legal health coverage while we are here. She refused to give us medical cards (because it's an added expense for the organization). Linden and I have both been sick twice since we've been here. Without medical cards we are unable to go to the doctor on our own. Instead I have had to call and e-mail numerous times before she will even acknowledge that I have asked for help. On average, it has taken her a week to schedule an appointment for us ... not cool when you have a sick child with a fever of 104. In fact, it's unacceptable. On two occasions, she said, 'He just has a cold. You wait.' Excuse me? When we finally saw a doctor, he prescribed my husband and Linden the same medicine and the same dosage. Really? Linden is 1 year old and weighs like 22 pounds. My husband is almost 6' 4" and weighs around 230 pounds. Makes you wonder ...
Getting home is a entirely different issue. Typically, she takes care of changing flights and making sure we all get home whenever it is that we need to get home. This year she told the wives, 'I am too busy, you take care of your tickets'. Um, okay? She booked my flight through a travel agent and because she booked the cheapest possible flight, I am unable to make changes to the return portion of my ticket. I tried to explain this to her and she said, 'No, you are wrong.' No offer to help, no suggestion as to what to try next ... nothing.
On top of the ticketing issues, some of the wives have experienced problems getting through customs. One was interrogated for more than two hours. Her passport was also stamped with a black mark that will stay with her for three years. Anytime she wishes to travel, she will be interrogated and will have to go through additional security screening. Why the black mark? Her paperwork wasn't filed properly in Italy by the owner's wife.
If you've done the math, you've realized that I don't even have paperwork, let alone paperwork that was filed incorrectly. As calmly as possible, I contacted the owner's wife asking about my VISA. After two days of waiting for a response, I contacted the U.S. Consulate in Florence. I was told that I most definitely needed a VISA and that it is likely that I will also be interrogated on my way home ... and I will also receive a black stamp on my passport. Additionally, I can be charged and fined 5,000-10,000 euro (which I am sure won't happen but still ...) and may not be allowed back in to Italy, indefinitely. That would sure complicate things should my husband decide to sign in Italy (with a different team, of course) next season. Anyway, I forwarded the Consulate's response on to the owner's wife.
She finally wrote me back today. Her e-mail said, 'Please stop contacting people about your paperwork.' I can't help but laugh. Part of me (the 16 year old in me) wants to scream and throw things. The more mature part of me knows that there is very little I can do at this point ... it is what it is. Thank you, SGC ... for nothing.
The VISA and medical card issues are of much greater concern, but they aren't the only things in our contract that they have failed to provide.
I was so looking forward to being able to go to the gym every day. At home, while working full time and balancing my husband's hockey schedule with my own, I never had time to go to the gym. When we negotiated our contract this year, the coach actually suggested that we ask for a gym membership. He told us that all of the wives had them last year and that it would be a great thing for me to have.
When I asked the owner's wife about my gym membership she simply said, 'No. No gym membership.' Awesome.
Then there are the hockey-related things. For instance, my husband suffered a knee injury in mid-December. As far as we know, he has a strained MCL. The team waited a full week before they scheduled an appointment for him to see a doctor or have an MRI. Once they had the diagnosis, they wanted another two weeks to arrange proper treatment for him. They tried to pawn him off on a 'massage therapist' for a week. Once they realized it wasn't helping (SHOCKING, I KNOW!), they arranged for him to go to physical therapy but told him that they wouldn't pay for it (a clear violation of our contract).
Generally speaking, I am not a very 'laid back' person. I can admit it: I am not good at 'going with the flow' or 'taking things day by day'. I suck at it. However, over the past four months, I have definitely gotten better at going with the flow and taking things day by day - I can't feasibly argue with this woman or the ownership about EVERYTHING. I have had to pick my battles. And now you can see ... there ARE battles.
Note: I do want to say that outside of things related to the organization (with the exception of the team's WONDERFULLY AMAZING manager, Alberto), my time in Italy has been an experience of a lifetime. I have spent all day, every day, with my two most favorite people in the world. I have seen parts of the world I thought I might never see and I have met a handful of people who have changed my life and made my time here so special. It's not that I am not grateful for this experience, even the not-so-great things have been an opportunity for me to learn, but sometimes a girl's gotta vent!
Whew, I feel a little better getting some of that out there, off my chest! Thank you for listening.