When Ida Bjornstad first approached Julie Turris about starting a podcast to discuss the lives of hockey families outside the rink, Turris was apprehensive.
The wife of Nashville Predators centre Kyle Turris considered herself a private person and didn’t have the comfort level required for sharing personal stories on a public platform.
But once the podcast — Off Ice with Ida & Julie — debuted last month, she knew that her and Bjornstad, the fiancee of Preds defenceman Mattias Ekholm, were onto something.
“I try to refrain from calling it a hockey wife show. Obviously Ida and I are hockey wives and we’re the ones doing the podcast, but it’s not centred on what it’s like to be a hockey wife,” Turris said in a phone interview from her Nashville home. “It’s more, ‘here’s an interesting story from a family’s perspective of winning the Stanley Cup, or moving here from Finland and not knowing anyone.’
“The guys deal with media all the time and their stories are more to the point, so it’s nice to get the other side of the coin and talk about how crazy it is to pick up everything and move to a new city after a trade or something. It’s an inside look into the families as a whole, not just the hockey wife.”
Bjornstad, a former sports broadcaster in her native Sweden, had the idea for the podcast back in October and set up meetings with the Predators and their media team to make it happen.
The weekly show, which can be heard on iHeartRadio, iTunes, Spotify and other platforms, comes out every Wednesday. Bjornstad and Turris are joined each week by a guest, who talks about her experience in the hockey community over the course of a 30-45 minute episode.
Guests are also asked to bring in items that are later auctioned off with the proceeds benefiting Second Harvest, a food bank in Nashville.
For Turris, who moved to Nashville when her husband was traded from the Ottawa Senators in November 2017, the podcast brings together a community that helped make her own transition to a new city much easier.
“It’s an interesting life, it has its ups and downs, but if you can find women who understand that and can gather around and support each other it makes a huge difference,” she said. “In Ottawa I had a really good group of girls. … and moving to Nashville, it was so overwhelming, but the second I came here I found girls I immediately clicked with and that was such a weight off my shoulders.
“I had a support group. That’s really important.”
The podcast also discusses themes outside the hockey family dynamic, like when Week 2 guest Melanie Collins, an NFL sideline reporter who’s also the girlfriend of Calgary Flames forward James Neal, talked about the challenges of sustaining a career when your spouse is a professional athlete.
Turris, a teacher by trade, could relate. She said she struggled to harmonize her own identity with being a “hockey wife” when her and her husband first moved to Ottawa in 2012.
Teaching jobs in the Canadian capital were hard to come by, and having earned her degree at an American college — the University of Wisconsin, where she and Kyle met — Turris would have needed to upgrade her credits in order to teach in a new country.
“There was a bit of a time in Ottawa where I felt like I was just following him. I definitely felt a bit lost,” Turris told The Canadian Press. “And it wasn’t a pity party, I chose that life — moving and giving things up is what you have to do — but I had to find other things to fulfil me, so I started volunteering at a school and working with kids and it did really help.
“Melanie touched on this (in the podcast) but your career doesn’t define who you are. It’s something that you do. So once I accepted that it was easier.”
Turris said the feedback from the podcast has been mostly positive, but her and Bjornstad told each other from the start to be prepared for negative comments.
And when those arise, they try not to think about them too much.
“To be a woman on any public platform, you’re always going to have someone that has an opinion about what you’re doing,” Turris said. “We’re putting ourselves out there, going out of our comfort zone and you can’t stop someone saying whatever they want about you behind a computer.”
“I think the podcast is so important because the league is changing and women are starting to have a louder voice and it’s important to have those voices heard,” she added.
“Every girl that I’ve run into in the league has a different story and they should have a chance to share it.”
Melissa Couto, The Canadian Press