Minding more than a net: Thunder's top goalie also single father to 9-year-old
BLOOMINGTON, Dec 25, 2010 (The Pantagraph - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Nine-year-old Joelle is sitting in a front-row seat of an empty U.S. Cellular Coliseum on a mid-week October morning. She fidgets with the pages of an elementary school math book while her dad practices on the ice with the Bloomington PrairieThunder.
Soon, a woman comes by, smiles and asks, "Joelle, are you ready to go?"
"I'm ready," she tells her and then shouts "Bye, Daddy!" through the glass along the dasher boards.
Her daddy is Marco Emond. He's the team's No. 1 goaltender.
He's also a single dad. Together, the two of them make a family.
In some ways, Emond and Joelle are not unlike most families. They share a place they call home and have a regular daily routine that sends them into the world -- him to work as a professional hockey player; her to school.
But this is a parent-child bond rarely seen in minor league sports. Several within the PrairieThunder organization have been around minor-league hockey for a couple of decades and none can recall seeing a familial setup such as this one where Emond handles everything from homework to hair ribbons, while maintaining a level of play on the ice that has him among the top goaltenders in the Central Hockey League.
"It can be tough to do it all on your own," Emond said. "But we're kind of a team, me and Joelle. We make things work."
His teammates marvel at the father-daughter arrangement.
"It's extraordinary," said Thunder captain Jason Deleurme, himself a married father of two. "My wife thinks it's amazing. Obviously, she's a mom and when I'm not around, she really feels how difficult it can be.
"So I can't imagine how he does it."
A parent's life
During training camp with the PrairieThunder earlier this season, Emond home-schooled Joelle several hours a day from their Bloomington apartment to keep her up to speed academically. Joelle is now in a third-grade classroom at Fox Creek Elementary School in Bloomington, where Emond says Joelle is thriving.
Their daily routine is, well, fairly routine when the PrairieThunder does not have games during the middle of the week.
But it was bound to get a little sticky on home game nights and when the team plays games on the road.
That's where Carissa Fatheree of Bloomington entered the picture. Fatheree is a Thunder booster club member and a mother of two children, including a 9-year-old girl, Maribeth, who has become fast friends with Joelle.
Fatheree takes Joelle to every home game and also invites her into her home on weekends when the team is out of town.
"The most challenging thing is finding people you can trust when you go on the road," Emond said. "I made sure the person I was going to ask was someone I could trust. She has been the right person."
Fatheree, a home health nurse, quickly got hooked on Joelle.
"She's a breath of fresh air," Fatheree said. "She's such a reflection of Marco -- very kind and considerate and very socially savvy. You can tell that she's seen a lot and is really well-adjusted.
"I have a certain heartstring out there for her."
Help from others in the community or people associated with the team generally has been how Emond has done it when playing in other cities. Such a lifestyle has put Joelle in sports arenas and around hockey rinks since she was a baby, meeting countless people along the way.
"I think that will be a good point of her character growing up," Emond said. "Too many people are in the same spot all their lives, then they have to move and that's when things get confusing."
A parent's love
Emond's playing career kept him in North America for 12 seasons. But the 33-year-old decided to play part of last season in France -- a move that would prove too far for Joelle to make with him.
It kept father and daughter apart for seven months.
"I remember him saying they were both in the pits of depression during that time," Fatheree said. "It was really hard for them both."
Emond acknowledges the difficulty.
"We needed to be together," he said. "This year, it's a pleasure to have her with me."
Joelle spent those seven months with her mother, Jonah Monet of Jackson, Miss. Emond and Monet met when Emond played part of the 1999-2000 season with the Jackson Bandits of the ECHL.
They were married for six years. Emond and Monet maintain a working relationship in an effort to look out for Joelle's best interests, much in the way a traditional family might.
"I'm a Southern belle and he's a Frenchman from Quebec, so you can imagine the amount of cultural differences the two of us have," said Monet, who also has two other children from a previous marriage. "But I have a great deal of trust in him. We back each other up and we've made a commitment to raise (Joelle) to be everything she can be."
Emond and Monet both said they are continually re-evaluating what is best for Joelle. Both are encouraged by the education Joelle is getting here compared to lower-performing public schools in Mississippi.
Joelle will spend Christmas break and next summer in Mississippi.
"We'll figure out next year later," Emond said. "Anything for the benefit of Joelle."
The most common question Monet gets about the unusual setup is if she misses her daughter.
Undoubtedly, she does. But she also says this arrangement is a faith step.
"I'm the biggest mother hen and mother lion you'll ever meet," Monet said. "But Marco has an amazing ability to see where he needs to change and then change. Marco is a fantastic person, and a fantastic father as well. And together we are still in a partnership to raise a happy and productive future adult."
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