To Komets’ Schaafsma family, moving is an artform

Jamie Schaafsma is in his third season as the Komets' captain. (By Blake Sebring of News-Sentinel.com)
Nicole Schaafsma shows off some of the more than 30 totes the family uses each time they move. (By Blake Sebring of News-Sentinel.com)
The Schaafsma family from top left: Jamie holding Sullivan, Nicole and Sutter and Sawyer. (Courtesy photo)

During his 13-year professional career, Jamie Schaafsma and his wife Nicole have moved more than 25 times. Because he’s always been a very solid player and usually one of his team’s stars, that’s actually not because of trades or call-ups or getting cut and needing to find a new job, either, but just in the usual beginning and ending of seasons.

But after all those moves, the main story that sticks out to them over all those moves is the chandelier.

Jamie: “Last year she brought this light fixture. At home, I’m handy so I can install fixtures and stuff. It was a big chandelier, but I had no idea she had packed it and when we got here, I was so irritated. `Why do we have this chandelier? Do you think I’m going to switch out one of the lights to put a chandelier in our apartment we’re going to live in for eight months?’ ”

Nicole: “We had these ceiling fans and he was like, `Do you think I’m going to take down a ceiling fan?’ ”

Jamie: “So this year she brought three huge area rugs, but we get here and the whole place is carpeted. You know what’s funny about this year? We don’t have any light fixtures… but we didn’t bring the chandelier!”

Nicole: “Of course I didn’t. I brought the rugs!”

As a married couple whose main income comes from a hockey player husband, the Schaafsmas have gotten used to moving. It’s part of the job description because they have to go where the work is. in fact, they moved to Amsterdam just after they first started dating when she was 19 and he was 23.

“At the start, she didn’t know what it would be like, and I was sure to explain to her that hockey was my first love,” Jamie said, smiling at her mischievously. It’s obvious he wants to stick his tongue out at her, but he’s not that brave. “That’s what I wanted to do and what I was doing.”

She has never given him a hard time about it.

“She always supported me,” he said. “At the start, I’m sure she had her questions, but she always tried to make the best of every situation. We made it work.”

And along the way, Nicole learned how to make the moves as a hockey wife — and mother. There are now three children to move, and a fourth on the way who will be going home with the Schaafsmas when this season is completed.

Besides children, those moves have also changed dramatically from the time they were packing things like extra peanut butter, electric adapters and some drinks along with everything else they needed into six hockey bags for moves to the Netherlands (four times), Germany (once) and Italy (four times). Then the children started coming and they moved to Allen, Tex., until 2015 when they came to Fort Wayne.

The secret to all those moves? Totes, as they are called in Canada or bins, and the Schaafmas own more than 30. That allows them to store their winter clothes and Christmas materials in Fort Wayne when they go home for the summer, and pack their summer clothes in the basement of their Chatham, Ontario, home.

Everything is labeled and full to the brim to be packed into the U-Haul they rent for each trip. If something isn’t moving, it’s being donated, thrown away or sometimes even sold.

She’s organized, and he…

Jamie: “I like to clean stuff out, like what’s not coming and what can I throw away because she’s always trying to bring as much stuff as possible. We kind of fight over that.”

Nicole: That’s the worst because Jamie gives me a hard time about every single thing. I have to put stuff in totes, hurry up and close it and put hockey tape around it before he looks in it. Then it’s hilarious because every single year it’s the same story.”

There are lots of things he never wants to bring into a season, sees no reason to pack up and move to save his back. (It’s a guy thing.) Those things include decorating fixtures, plants and the like.

“Then we get into our apartment and it gets set up and all the stuff is on the walls, and the guys come over and say, `Oh, my gosh, y our place is so nice,’ ” Jamie said. “I’m like, `It’s the same as your place,’ but our’s looks so much nicer because Nicole decorates.”

So did she win that argument then?

“When you use extra pillows and use curtains and have stuff, it makes it feel like a home,” she said.

Moving on — no pun intended — it’s funny how many teammates and former teammates reach out to Nicole for moving advice, especially if they are going to play overseas. Usually, it’s the wives or girlfriends — her teammates, if you will — who take the best notes. They can understand and relate to what the Schaafsmas have gone through in ways most couples living “normal” lives cannot.

Such as their children: Each child gets two totes to pack with toys and everything else stays behind

The oldest two children also start the school year in Chatham for a month before moving to Fort Wayne when training camp starts. They can’t come down early because ECHL insurance does not begin until training camp starts, and the teams are prohibited from paying ahead on it because that could be an extra benefit. The Schaafsmas can’t take the risk of coming down early and living without insurance.

Moving has become a normal part of the children’s lives.

“There’s always an adjustment period, but I feel like our kids as so well-adjusted when it comes to that type of thing,” Jamie said. “They meet people well. I feel like they are closest with their cousins. Those are kind of their best friends and we are in good contact with them quite a bit.”

The greatest thing about this lifestyle is that the Schaafsmas get to spend tons of time with their children. Nicole is a stay-at-home mom, and Jamie is around most weekdays after morning practice depending on the Komets’ schedule. Weekends are crazy because of games, the kids’ schedules and regular visits from relatives.

But how long will these travels last? No one knows or really wants to know, in a way.

Nicole: “I think we’re always going to look back on these golden years that we had this type of lifestyle. People say to me all the time, `I could never do what you do,’ and I think that it works because that’s all we’ve ever known. I am petrified for when all this is over. This is all we know, all our relationship knows. I feel like we have made our own routine. I think it’s going to be so boring when we don’t do this any more because that’s all we know.”

Jamie: “It will be less about what we’re doing and more about what the kids are doing. I actually look forward to watching all of them play hockey.”

But not quite yet.

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