Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Mrs. Tkachuk's crash course

NHL wife gives Winnipeg advice for Jets women

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Happy wife, happy hockey life.

The spouse of a former Winnipeg Jets captain is doing her best to ensure a smooth transition for the city's new NHL team by reaching out to the women in the players' lives.

Chantal Tkachuk, who grew up in Winnipeg as an Oster and married Keith Tkachuk, has been in contact with the wives and girlfriends of the new Winnipeg Jets to pass on advice about living in the Manitoba capital.

"I consulted a group of my girlfriends from Winnipeg and asked them to email me their favourite things. I compiled a list and emailed it out to the wives and girlfriends (of the players)," Tkachuk said.

Tkachuk is good friends with Courtney Mason, wife of new Jets goaltender Chris Mason, who played with her husband in St. Louis during the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons before moving to the Atlanta Thrashers last year. Keith Tkachuk also played part of the 2006-07 season in Atlanta.

The two women have kept in touch, particularly through the rumours, ups, downs and uncertainty during the sale of the Thrashers to True North Sports & Entertainment this spring.

Tkachuk said it didn't sound as though any of the Thrashers women knew much about Winnipeg or had any connections here, so she passed on tips about doctors and dentists, hair salons, spas, schools, restaurants, shopping, catering, cleaning ladies, nannies, babysitters, workout gyms and neighbourhoods.

"I think some of them might be a bit nervous. It's a place they've never been to and don't know much about, except it's cold," she said.

Tkachuk didn't gloss over the obvious differences between the winters in the two cities, but she was quick to note how "fun" Winnipeg is and how it's a great place to raise children.

"From a team standpoint, I told them it was one of the most fun places Keith played. Because it's a small city, mostly everybody ends up living close to each other and going to the same places. Coming from Atlanta, where hockey isn't as revered as it is here, you can have a really fun time. (Winnipeggers) are going to treat the players extremely well. I told them, 'It will be a really great experience for you,' " she said.

Tkachuk said the women typically do the vast majority of the legwork when it comes to a big move -- the players tend to leave immediately after they've been traded, for example -- although that may be less the case here, where an entire team is being uprooted.

"It can be stressful and overwhelming. That's why I wanted to get an email out. I wanted to ease some of that stress of going to a new place and panicking that you have to research all of this stuff. When the Jets moved to Phoenix (in 1996), all of the wives relied on each other. When one of us found something out, we shared it with everybody else. The transition (for the Thrashers) should be easier because they're doing it as a group. They have the network to rely on," she said.

Tkachuk was back in Winnipeg last week with two of her children, son Brady, 11, and daughter Taryn, 8, visiting her parents, family and friends. Her husband and oldest son, Matthew, 13, are at a hockey festival in Iowa.

Having grown up watching the Jets, she said she was thrilled that her hometown was once again an NHL city.

"I think it's really neat driving around and seeing businesses with signs saying, 'Welcome back NHL.' It gives you a feeling of excitement for the city and for the new team," she said.

Chantal Tkachuk knew a thing or two about hockey before she met her husband. Her cousin Glen Ostir (who spells his last name differently) was drafted in the fifth round by the Jets in 1980. He was diagnosed with leukemia a few months later but made a full recovery and became a professor at the University of Texas medical school. Her brother, Craig Oster, in addition to having played high-level hockey in his youth, is a player agent for Newport Sports Management out of Toronto.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Jets Welcome Wagon

Here's a list of recommendations from native Winnipegger Chantal Tkachuk to the wives and girlfriends of the new Winnipeg Jets. (Comments in brackets.)

Shopping: Candie & Dolls, Danali, Village Streetwear, and Luxe Label.

Hair: Society By Design, Edward Carriere, Oxfords, Aevi.

Restaurants: Steak -- Hy's Steakhouse & Cocktail Bar (best cheese bread), 529 Wellington, and Chop.

Italian -- Mona Lisa Ristorante (try the panne fritto appetizer), Pizzeria Gusto.

Others -- Terrace 55, Fude, and Bonfire Bistro

Spa: Ten Spa at Fort Garry Hotel (You HAVE to try the Hamam Turkish treatment.)

Yoga: Strategym, Moksha

Gyms: Pro Fitness and First Choice Fitness.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 27, 2011 B1

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