WhileTheMenWatch is the internet sensation that's seen two "hockey widows" (their husbands are obsessed) go from chatting to each other on the phone during games to having thousands tune in to hear their "girl talk" style play-by-play commentary for hockey, football, baseball, basketball and more. Now, Lena Sutherland and Jules Mancuso are coming to CBC, with their unique take being live-streamed online simultaneously with Hockey Night in Canada. It all starts with the first game of the Stanley Cup Finals.
In a country that takes its hockey very seriously, the idea of WhileTheMenWatch Hockey Night as a different viewing option has ruffled a few feathers. We sat down with Lena and Jules to find out a little bit more about them and how the show came about. While the show has been met with a certain degree of scepticism by some, Lena and Jules go on to explain that, first and foremost, it's all in the name of good fun: "Have fun with it. Laugh with it. Take it with a grain of salt." If they can make some new sports fans out of it, then that's even better:
First of all, tell us a little bit about yourselves.
Jules Mancuso: Well, we are Lena and Jules from WhileTheMenWatch.com. We've been best friends for over twenty years, and both of our husbands are addicted to watching and playing sports - particularly hockey. One afternoon they were both watching the same game while we were on the phone and we started naturally making commentary about the game. We thought it was a great idea and that we would share it with other women out there, or non-sports fans, who may not be in to the technicalities of the game.
So it's mainly for non-sports fans who, as you said, aren't into the technicalities of the game?
Lena Sutherland: Yeah. Although there's something for everyone. There are people who are pretty hardcore that tune in and say, "hey, it's funny". They're not going to watch the whole show, but you know...
JM: We have a following of females and males as well so it's really out there for entertainment.
What do your husbands think of it?
JM: They love it.
LS: They love the fact that we are watching the game and know who the players are. They love that we can debate with them on certain things, whether it be fighting or the line up. Sometimes we'll have our suggestions as to who we think should be on the ice... they love it.
Really you're just encouraging more people to watch sport. It's a way for people that aren't sports fans to get into it?
LS: For sure. Jules and I calculated that we've probably watched about 5,000 hours of sports this past year. If you would have told me that I would have been sitting there every weekend watching football, baseball, hockey, golf and... Nascar, heaven help us. We're having a great time. We're living proof that it is possible.
JM: That's our intention, to provide entertainment for people and to make people a fan "of sports" in whatever way they want to be a fan. If you had asked us a year and a half ago if we would be excited to meet Don Cherry or sit in his chair we probably would have said, "not really - who's Don Cherry?" Yesterday, we were very excited to meet Don Cherry. You start to develop a like for the game in whichever way you prefer.
As well as entertaining women, you do have male followers that enjoy the show too. What would you say to anyone that's sceptical?
LS: Well, tune in before you start complaining.
JM: Give us a chance.
LS: You know, we have been doing this for a year now with lots of positive feedback from men and women. We get emails from women who say, "you know what? This is the first time I've sat through an entire game and I've had a blast. By the third period my husband put the TV on mute and we were both listening together and having a good time." It's meant to be all in good fun. It's entertainment. It's a game - let's remember that it's a game. We had the privelage of interviewing Mark Messier over the weekend - who you know is an NHL legend - and he said, "you can look at hockey like a novel or a movie. The more you know about the characters the more fun it is to watch," and he thinks it's a great idea. He said "that's exactly what you guys are doing - getting people engaged in a different way."
How much more are you learning about the sports as you go along?
LS: To be honest with you I think we're just naturally predisposed to not fixate on those technical details. It'll take us an entire season and then finally realise that when you have a power play and score it's over. We don't try and necessarily become experts.
JM: Or, really, want to. The less we know the more entertaining it is.
LS: Exactly, sometimes we'll ask our husbands, "can you tell me what's going on with the controversy about why this player got suspended?" and it ends up with a twenty minute explanation about the ins and outs. All we need to know is what happened! Who's mad at who? Let's just sum it up.
JM: We've always said, if we really want to know all the technicalities, we can learn. It's not that difficult but we choose not to, just to put a lighthearted spin on it.
What's been the most fun so far for you?
JM: Hanging out with my best friend talking about nonsense!
LS: We started this from our living rooms, sitting on the couch in our pyjamas talking to your best friend. Suddenly thousands of people are tuning in and joining in. We'd be doing this anyway, we'd be chatting about something and I think that if you're a woman, if you're a man, if you like hockey, if you hate hockey... there's one thing that pretty much anyone can agree on: girlfriends like to talk. That's what we're doing, and we're having a blast. We hope everyone joins us, grabs their girlfriend, sits down and watches that game in the way that they choose. Turn Lena and Jules on for a few minutes, if you don't like it, turn it off.
JM: This isn't going to be our first show that we've done... we did the hockey playoffs last year. We were in Vancouver in the heat of it.
LS: We were cheering... we were praying that Kevin Bieksa wasn't injured; we almost called him an ambulance! This is nothing new for us, we've been doing this and we've been having a blast.
JM: Instead of sitting on the couch at home, we're now sitting on the couch at CBC.
How does it feel to bring it to CBC?
LS: We can't stop laughing...! We are honoured. We are so honoured first of all to be invited to do this here in the holy grail of hockey. We met Don Cherry last night - that was a big thrill. I'm looking at the set and I'm still kind of laughing because it's just a crazy idea that we had in our living rooms and now it's being shared and broadcast. We're actually most excited about the fact that someone else has to worry about the internet connection! We don't have to deal with any wires or anything like that. We're just along for the ride and having a great time - we hope that anyone out there looking for a bit of an alternative way to enjoy the game...
JM: ...will have a good laugh.
Were you fans of any kind of team sports before you started?
LS: Not really, I mean, we're both in to doing kind of individual sports ourselves. I just ran my third marathon last year. Jules is very active in weightlifting and yoga and things like that. We definitely like to be active, but in terms of following a team... I have to say I got in to the Olympic hockey, the gold medal game in Vancouver. That was pretty much... I would say the most into a sport I was... just to see Canada win the Gold!
JM: Of all the sports we do like hockey the best. We're both Canadian, and it's the sport that our husbands tend to watch and play. It's a fun game. It's just looking at it a different way and it just brings a lot more fun to the game, we think.
What was your husbands reaction when you said you're going to be doing this on CBC?
JM: I think they're still in shock.
LS: They're excited. Now they're getting all sorts of emails... "your wife is on Yahoo! Sports, what's going on?!" It's pretty funny.
JM: We always said, at the end of the day, we've never laughed so hard since we've started this.
LS: We've had a blast since day one. I mean, there's nothing better than chatting with your best friend. And I think that's what we really want to get through with this, that it's not scripted. We're real friends. When you have a really good friend that you can say anything to and you don't feel you have to watch yourself or be prim and proper or filter yourself, that's what we talk like on the show. That's what people can expect, a really candid look at what people in their own homes, in their living rooms or out for coffee with their girlfriends actually say and think.
JM: To be honest, we would just do this about sports but one night we found ourselves on the phone doing it for The Grammys. You're telling me women out there aren't making comments... "look what she's wearing?" "did you see her hair?"
LS: "Look at Angelina sticking her leg out, what is she doing?" You know, that's fun!
JM: It's girl talk, and some guys like to hear that stuff too. The fact that we've chosen to do it with sports... Have fun with it. Laugh with it. Take it with a grain of salt.