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No game

Only the players seem to score during hockey season Add to ...

Cori Stern-Torres retires her risqué lingerie and razor from October to April every year and lets her body become "a jungle."

Her husband of seven years, Jim Traynor, is a rabid New York Rangers fan and she says she's invisible to him during hockey season.

It's why Ms. Stern-Torres, 46, relishes commercial breaks: She's mastered the art of doing the deed in those brief minutes before her hubby's focus returns to the glow of the TV screen.

But if Ms. Stern-Torres yearns for a longer session between the sheets, she has to share time with 21 hulking men - her husband's beloved Rangers.

"There were times when we were having sex and he's been watching the game," she said from her home in New York. "If I want to get some and there's a game on, that's what we have to do."

The start of stick-handling season marks a regular wave of change in relationships involving hockey fans. Like Ms. Stern-Torres, many women dread October because it's when they enter into hockey widowhood. But even male friendships can be affected. While some guys look forward to bonding with their sports buddies, others face being left behind when they root for a different team than their best bud.

Sam Lackey, a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, counts three fanatical Montreal Canadiens supporters as his closest friends. He'd hoped to celebrate his 33rd birthday with his buddies this weekend, but then learned they were headed to Buffalo to catch a game between the Canadiens and the Sabres.

"I've been abandoned by my entire central friend group for my birthday," he said.

But he acknowledges that he can't find fault with his friends on this one.

When he reminded them that it was his birthday, they offered him an extra ticket they had bought - which he turned down. He simply doesn't want to spend his birthday in a city he doesn't like cheering for a team he doesn't like - plus, he had already made dinner plans with his mother in Toronto.

"It comes more down to me putting aside my hatred [of the Habs]" he said.

Ms. Stern-Torres has tried to enjoy hockey for her husband's sake - he even bought her a Rangers jersey - but she said she can't drum up much interest in the game.

Toronto relationship psychologist Kristine Laderoute says neglected partners shouldn't force themselves to become sports fans if they crave quality time with their significant other. She said hockey widows or widowers should ask their partners to make time for them each week.

"You have to purposely schedule more times to come together during the season, whereas during the off-season you don't," Dr. Laderoute said. "It would be about both partners trying to respect the other's needs."

Sarah Niman, 23, a stay-at-home mom in Ross River, Yukon, said her husband Richard - an Ottawa Senators fan - slacks around the house when hockey season hits.

"He'll say he's watching the baby … but when she starts to cry, he pretends he doesn't hear her and then I have to come in and get her."

So when Mr. Niman begged her to subscribe to the NHL package on satellite television, she agreed - with conditions. He has to clean the bathroom and sweep the floors throughout hockey season.

"So far he's been following through," she said.

But she still misses spending time with him during the season, since he also invests several hours a week tending to his hockey pool online.

Dr. Laderoute encourages abandoned partners or friends to seek out a hobby of their own in the winter months to fill the void.

When Ms. Stern-Torres isn't venting with other hockey widows about her husband's obsession, for example, she's hooked on a game of her own.

"I sit next to [my husband]on the couch while he's watching hockey and I play Facebook Scrabble on my laptop," she said.

For some though, hockey season offers a chance to reconnect. Mr. Lackey says it's an opportunity to renew relationships with other friends he isn't as close with the rest of the year: He gets together with "rabid Leafs fans" to watch a game.

But even though he and his closest buddies - the Canadiens fans - wear different jerseys, he still gets a kick out of accompanying them to Canadiens-friendly bars to watch Habs games.

"I find it more fun to cheer against them," he said with a devilish laugh. "It's good to be a single voice of dissent."

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