When Dalyn Hillman met her husband, Scott, it was love at first sight.
“I feel like Scott made all my dreams come true,” Dalyn said.
So when the time came for her to pick a life with Scott or continue as a professional rodeo rider, the decision was easy.
Dalyn, who lived in Texas then, was finishing up her college degree, and Scott was a professional hockey player who spent much of his time on the road.
“We did not think it would work if he was traveling quite a bit with hockey and I was traveling constantly, so we would hardly ever see each other,” Dalyn says. “That was not the kind of relationship we were looking for.”
And while she misses the rodeo and hopes to get back into riding someday, Dalyn says she has never regretted the decision and would not change anything about the life she has built with Scott.
At 28 years old, the new resident of Lakewood is a local celebrity of sorts who hopes to give back to her community while doing what she deems her most important job – supporting Scott and their sons, Corbin and Guhnar.
Supporting a husband, a former professional hockey player turned coach, and two active boys gives this Southern belle little time to be idle. That’s mostly because supporting Scott and his dreams comes with a lot of pressure.
She remembers when Scott decided to give up playing for good. He’d come out of retirement to play and after sustaining several concussions, he was injured again – this time having some of his teeth knocked out. Dalyn was pregnant with Guhnar at the time.
“I had never seen Scott scared,” Dalyn says. “I just had to be strong for him. It was about him.”
Staying strong for her husband is just part of the job.
“I feel like that’s pretty much my job and purpose,” Dalyn says. “His job is providing for and supporting his family. And it is always mine to be home and do my dream job.”
Scott was named the head coach of the Missouri Mavericks, a new Central Hockey League team based in Independence, earlier this year. That’s when Dalyn’s new job began.
THE CONSTANT CHEERLEADER
Being the wife of a professional hockey coach may sound glamorous.
And why wouldn’t it, when you’re invited to model in local fashion shows and looked upon as almost local royalty?
But Dalyn says it all comes with a price – the pressure of building a professional team from the ground up. The Independence Events Center was still a shell when Scott accepted the position. He didn’t have a roster of players or assistant coaches. He didn’t even have an office.
Page 2 of 6 - “He’s having to meet guys at individual apartments or on lunch breaks to get paperwork signed,” Dalyn says. “There are a lot of things to do from the ground up. The organization is doing a phenomenal job. Now he has to do his job and provide a winning team.”
It’s important for Dalyn to keep a positive attitude and work to build a family atmosphere among the team, the players’ wives and girlfriends.
She wants to make sure everyone feels like an important part of that family.
That means keeping things quiet behind the scenes.
“We are kind of our own built-in family,” Scott says, explaining the team spends so much time together on the bus and away from home, it’s almost inevitable. “Our goal is to do lots of things together.”
The Mavericks, whose home opener is Nov. 13, have a team philosophy of giving back to the community. And that’s a mission Dalyn takes personally.
While the team spends a lot of its time on the road, Dalyn says it’s up to the wives to help further the philanthropic dreams.
“All of a sudden, they’ve got a common ground. It gives them a real sense of pride and a sense of purpose while they’re here,” Scott says. “It’s giving the gals something good, something constructive to do.”
Dalyn and the wives have gotten involved in Habitat for Humanity already and hope to find other local charities to help.
Keeping the peace is another important part of what she does.
“We’ve got to get along behind the scenes,” Dalyn says. “They’re teammates.
“You can’t have any tension because they’re going to be stressed enough as it is.”
She won’t attend many of the away games because she still has Corbin and Guhnar to take care of. Both her sons play hockey in Overland Park, and it’s important for her to keep their routines as normal as possible.
But they will be at every home game. And she’ll open up her home to teammates to unwind after the games, or have anyone over who can’t go home for Thanksgiving or Christmas.
Knowing he has his wife’s full support eases Scott’s mind – enabling him to focus on his team.
“Coaching can almost be very lonely,” Scott admits. “The wins, the losses.
“The hours the coach has to spend – you’re up all night evaluating. To be a coach’s spouse can sometimes be the hardest job in the world. It’s a tough job for her, and she does incredibly well with it.”
So what, exactly, does it take to be a coach’s wife?
Page 3 of 6 - Patience – even when Scott is home, he’s often busy with the team or thinking ahead to the next game.
Understanding – with a husband who spends a lot of time on the road, Dalyn, in many ways, plays the role of a single parent.
But it’s a life she’s accustomed to, and the life she loves.
“I hope that I do a good job,” Dalyn says. “I want to do a good job.”
For Dalyn, life in Eastern Jackson County is proving a little easier than the family’s move to Tennessee two years ago – even if she is single-handedly redecorating the family’s Lakewood home.
When Scott decided to quit playing hockey, he wasn’t ready to give up the dream. He decided, instead, he’d try his hand at coaching and landed a job as the head coach to the Knoxville Ice Bears.
At that point, Scott and Dalyn were running a business in Texas, and Scott was given two weeks to move to Knoxville and rebuild the team – which won back-to-back championships under his leadership.
Dalyn stayed in Texas for a few weeks and moved the family and put the business up for sale.
During that first year in Tennessee, the family experienced a lot of hardships – trouble with selling the business and the devastating loss of Dalyn’s beloved father.
Scott was in the playoffs, and Dalyn went to Texas by herself for the funeral. Scott was allowed one day from his arduous schedule to comfort his mourning wife.
Somewhere in all that time, the baby, Guhnar, ended up in the hospital.
“We were just being tested,” Dalyn says. “Through it all, we still won the championship.”
Dalyn, who seems to wear a perpetual smile across her face, never let those hardships get her down. She found strength in her faith and her husband and made it through – still smiling and still believing in the dream life she built with her husband.
MOVING UP THE RANKS
When Dalyn met Scott in 2003, she had her reservations about dating a hockey player.
They had reputations, and she wasn’t interested in dating someone who would inevitably break her heart. Still, she was unquestionably attracted to Scott.
And the feeling was mutual.
It didn’t take long to know we would be together for a long, long time,” Scott said. “I thought she was beautiful.”
As the duo got to know each other better, they learned they had a lot in common and thought alike on many topics.
“There was a whole lot to build on,” Scott recalled.
Still, it wasn’t just Scott whom Dalyn had to win over.
Page 4 of 6 - Hockey wives tend to be protective of the single players. And for a hockey player to date a local girl didn’t always go over well.
“Once they get to know you, that you weren’t just a fan, it’s OK,” Dalyn says.
Scott and Dalyn married in 2005, and she stands firm that marrying Scott was the best thing she ever did.
In a short, petite frame, Dalyn could easily pass as a dainty, girly-girl.
Her dark hair frames her flawless face. Even in jeans and a T-shirt, Dalyn looks expertly put together.
But she’s no stranger to hard work and certainly isn’t afraid to break a sweat. She loves playing outside with her boys.
A self-proclaimed perfectionist, Dalyn is the product of a broken home, raised by a strong mother with an acute business sense. Dalyn remembers spending time in her mom’s office in Texas.
Her mother runs a successful oil business, and Dalyn has always looked up to her.
“She’s passionate about her work. She’s passionate about the Lord,” Dalyn says. “I think that’s what has made her so successful.”
And while she hasn’t given up on her dreams of maybe becoming a nurse someday, Dalyn thinks it’s important that she be home for her boys now. She wants to keep their routines as normal as possible.
That routine includes homemade everything.
When Dalyn cooks, which she does every night, she rarely makes anything out of a box. Even macaroni and cheese, she makes from scratch.
It’s her way of having a little more control over what her family is eating.
She misses Scott when he’s gone, but knows it’s important to her family and even the team that things go well back home. And it takes work to keep a relationship strong with so much time apart.
Their secret? Appreciation and respect.
“It seems that there is not much time for just us when there is not something else going on,” Dalyn says. “It may not be the quality time we desire, so when there is time for quality time, we have to appreciate it.”
HER FAVORITE JOB
Dalyn calls for her oldest son Corbin.
“Yes, Ma’am,” Corbin responds.
She asks Corbin to get the dinosaur costume from upstairs for Guhnar, who has been begging his mother to wear the costume, even though Halloween is still weeks away.
“Yes, Ma’am,” Corbin says politely.
Raising her boys to be respectful and polite is a priority for Dalyn. While Corbin has no trouble remembering his manners when speaking to adults, Dalyn laughs that Guhnar sometimes gets confused.
Page 5 of 6 - “He says ‘Yes, Sir’ to everyone,” Dalyn says.
Once the sought-after dinosaur costume is retrieved, Dalyn pulls Guhnar up on her lap and pulls the costume on. In a flash, Guhnar is off her lap and out the door – the tiniest dinosaur roaming the Hillman yard.
Dalyn loves that her boys are active and athletic. Dalyn said she and Scott never pushed sports on their boys but admits she’s happy they love sports and even more happy with their sport of choice – hockey.
“They eat and sleep hockey,” Dalyn says.
Corbin played his first game recently and volunteered to be the goalie for the game – helping his team to a shutout. He was given the game puck and couldn’t wait to get home and call his dad.
On the other hand, Dalyn is pretty sure Guhnar will grow up to be a little instigator on the ice.
He already is.
Guhnar loves rough housing with the hockey players and is known for charging guests as they walk into the Hillman home. Sometimes, he has to have a gentle reminder.
“Not everyone is a hockey player.”
Dalyn’s favorite family tradition happens every weekend. Come Friday, she says, the boys know it’s slumber party time.
“For the weekend, the boys get to camp out in our bedroom with sleeping bags and occasionally try to build tents with blankets to sleep under,” Dalyn says. “They seem to look forward to it, and it seems to be an exciting time for them.”
A WORTHY SACRIFICE
Dalyn has a collection of belt buckles – a reminder of her love of rodeo. She can’t remember a time growing up when she wasn’t involved in the rodeo.
She grew up in Texas, and it just came naturally to her.
“For a Canadian boy, all this rodeo stuff was something I was unfamiliar with,” Scott says.
Before going professional, Dalyn participated in several rodeo events, but as a professional rider, she did barrel racing. She loved being around that atmosphere and being around the horses.
But she gave it all up in the name of being an adult.
She earned a college degree in health science and still has aspirations of going back to school to get a nursing degree, but not until Guhnar is in school.
“The whole thing was having Mom at home when the boys were little,” Scott says. “I admire her every day. That’s the most stressful job in the world.”
Scott says he supports Dalyn 100 percent and if she decides to go back to school, he will back that decision.
“Personally, I think she’ll be ready,” Scott says. “Whatever she wants to do is good with me.”
Page 6 of 6 - WARM WELCOME
The announcement that the Hillmans would move from Tennessee to Eastern Jackson County came with a lot of excitement. Residents from Independence, Lee’s Summit, Blue Springs, and all of the area communities, were eager to meet their new neighbors.
Excited at what the move meant – a professional hockey team in this community.
And the Hillmans say they’ve never felt anything but welcome wherever they go in the metro.
“My first impression was the press conference (when Scott was announced head coach),” Dalyn says. “Everyone was very sincere, very welcoming. The mayor (Don Reimal from Independence) gave us a key to the city. That really spoke a lot to the community itself.”
And the move has even been a happy one for the biggest critic – Corbin. Corbin was less than excited about leaving his friends in Tennessee to move to Missouri.
“I didn’t like it,” Corbin says of the move. “Until we got here. Then, I liked it.”
Corbin made friends easily in school and in his neighborhood.
“Our house is like Grand Central Station,” Dalyn jokes.
Even though the Hillmans decided on a home in Lee’s Summit, they truly believe they are a part of all the communities that make up Eastern Jackson County. The arena is in Independence, and the boys are in the Blue Springs School District. But regardless of location, Dalyn says she has not gone anywhere in the KC area – even as far out as Overland Park for the boys’ hockey – without people expressing how excited they are to have the Hillmans in Kansas City.
“We’re so lucky we’ve been so well received,” Scott says. “We feel so at home here.”