Nicole Brown scrolled through her memory, trying to recall what would qualify as her favorite reality show.
“I’m trying to think about what my husband tells me to shut off when we’re going to bed,” she said, laughing.
She settled on “The Real Housewives of Orange County,” the O.G. version of that franchise and a series had a bit more humanity than its trashier offspring.
This is what Brown wants from her co-starring role on “Hockey Wives,” the new series debuting on Canada’s W Network at 10 p.m. ET/PT on March 18. As the wife of Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown – the two have been together since they were 15 years old, and have four children – she hopes the new show brings to light the lives of wives and girlfriends of NHL players.
They raise families. They own businesses. They leverage their husbands' and boyfriends’ stardom for charitable causes.
“Every wife and girlfriend has their own story to tell,” Brown said. “It’s not like we’re all sitting at home waiting for our husbands or boyfriends to come home.”
The cast for the upcoming season, including Brown:
* Actress Noureen DeWulf (Anger Management, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past), wife of Vancouver Canucks goalie Ryan Miller
* Maripier Morin, girlfriend of Montreal Canadiens winger Brandon Prust
* Fashion designer Tiffany Parros, married to recently retired George Parros
* Model and new mom Martine Forget, engaged to Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier
* Hockey wives’ connector Brijet Whitney, married to recently retired Ray Whitney
* Social activist Kodette LaBarbera, wife of Anaheim Ducks goalie Jason LaBarbera
* Former Intelligence Specialist for the U.S. Military Emilie Blum, wife of Minnesota/Iowa Wild defenseman Jonathon Blum
* Athlete and Communications expert Jenny Scrivens, wife of Edmonton Oilers goalie Ben Scrivens
* Arizona real estate maven Wendy Tippett, wife of Arizona Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett
We spoke with Nicole Brown about “Hockey Wives”, how she handles criticism of Dustin Brown, parenting when one spouse is on the road a lot and much more.
Q. What are you hoping people get out of seeing this show?
BROWN: “The driving force behind me doing the show was trying to shed some light on the families of these guys who play hockey. I feel there’s a certain way that people think we live, or the things that we do because our husbands are hockey players. But our lives aren’t that different from anybody else.
“Yes, my husband is a professional athlete and yes he makes a lot of money, and yes, anyone can go online and see how much he makes, but we’re not that different than anybody else. I’m a stay at home mom. I take care of my kids. I go through all the things that every other mom does. Just because we’re in LA doesn’t mean we’re in Hollywood going to glamorous parties every night. Most days I don’t make it out of my Lululemons because they’re comfortable, and I’m running around from point A to point B to go to soccer practice and doing homework with a kindergartener.
“I think it’s really important to show the other sides.”
One of the more unique aspects of the pro athlete family is how the athlete keeps in touch when on the road. Will we see some of that?
“Dustin and I communicate through text message 95 percent of the time, as well as FaceTime. That’s really the only option. He misses out on a lot of stuff. It’s really hard on me and hard on him. I feel guilty that I get to be home for school plays and concerts and holidays, and he doesn’t get to be there all the time.
My oldest son, Jake, his birthday’s in February. And I think for the past five years, he hasn’t been home, because February’s their big road trip. My husband hasn’t been there for my six-year-old's birthday for maybe his entire life. I feel bad for him that he has to miss out on all of it.
“People say, ‘He’s making millions of dollars. Get over it. Well, the money doesn’t make it any easier when you’re missing your kid’s birthday.”
He’s like an elected official. His salary is public, and he’s under constant discussion and criticism in the media and online. Do you pay attention to all that? Do you close it off? Is it unavoidable?
“It’s one of those things as a girlfriend or a spouse of a professional athlete, you learn over the years how to handle it. I definitely used to read that stuff – I can’t even lie to you. Some of it is really hurtful, and people don’t realize when people sit behind a computer screen and type that, that’s it’s hurtful. Just because you’re not face to face, that doesn’t mean the words don’t hurt.
“So I used to read it and I used to get very upset. I’m loyal to my husband. I think he’s great. But it hurts. I learned over the years that people are going to talk about him. Whether he’s playing great or whether he’s playing awful, somebody’s always going to have something to say. I can’t buy into it.
“So I learned my lesson and I stay away as much as possible, and try to stay positive. I don’t bring that stuff up to him.”
When he’s playing at home, do you watch from the wives/girlfriends/family room?
“This is our first year of having four mobile children. But I’ve only been to a handful of games during the week this season because I have three kids doing homework or reading, it’s hard to get away. And there are some nights I’d rather just sit in my pajamas and fold laundry and watch the game, rather than get dressed up and go to the game and get home at midnight and get up at six a.m. to get the kids ready for the next day.
“But I go on the weekends. When I do go, me and the other wives and girlfriends will go to the family room, chit-chat before the game and then go up to the seats and watch."
Do you know any of your other cast members?
“I know some better than others, only because some play here and some have not. The Hockey World is very small. I know Jenny Scrivens and Kodette LaBarbera because they were here with me. I met Bridgette Whitney years ago when we did a fundraiser for the families of the Lokomotiv plane crash in Russia. You kind of meet people along the way.”
Can you tell me a little bit about the support system players wives an girlfriends have for each other? It’s not a secret that some of the guys in this league can make mistakes on the road; is there a strong support system?
“I can’t speak to what it’s like in other cities. I can say that in LA that around playoff time my family is the other girls on the team. When the guys are on the road and something happens, like a sick family member, those are the girls that are in town to help you. They’re going through the same thing as you.
“It’s hard to call a girlfriend back home that I grew up with, because she’s not going to understand really. But these other girls understand. We’re all in this together. We’re all supporting our husbands.”
It’s an interesting project, because although you’ll put yourselves out there for charity and a few of you are on social media, hockey wives don’t really seek out the spotlight all that much. Are you worried about the reaction? On the other side of the keyboard, let’s say?
“I feel like that’s going to happen, no matter what. I’ve read stuff online before just from a picture of Dustin and I popping up. No matter what you do or say, someone’s going to take it and turn it around to make it something that it’s not.
“[Sighs] I try not to worry too much. This is my life. Nothing that you’re going to see on TV was done for TV. My life is chaos. It’s not staged.
“In this business, it comes with the territory. It’s usually just Dustin, not me. They’re going to take it however they take it. If I complain about something, they’re going to say I shouldn’t be complaining. But I think there’s going to be more good to come out of it than bad.”
I think because that’s what we do with celebrity couples, every couple is now put under that magnifying glass, even if only one half of them qualifies as a celebrity.
“I totally agree. It’s unfortunate that we just can’t just appreciate one another and what they’re doing with their families. But that’s the world now, especially with social media.”
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