How three Charlotte Checkers hockey players make their long-distance relationships work

Jeremy and Kelly

Those who have attempted the “long-distance relationship” can attest to how hard it is to maintain. For some, just a few weeks away from one another can cause a cooling off period. But what if you live in separate states or even countries for a substantial amount of time? Is it possible to keep the love alive? Is the relationship doomed from the beginning?

Three Charlotte Checkers hockey team players say with effort, long-distance relationships can succeed. Even during this busy hockey season (check out their team schedule here).

Alex Nedeljkovic, Jeremy Smith and Andrew Poturalski, each with a girlfriend far away, talk about how they keep their relationships full-strength, stay out of the penalty box and make it the goal:

Alex and Emma

Alex and Emma

Alex Nedeljkovic is in his second year with the Charlotte Checkers hockey team. He plays goalie.

The meet – In 2016, Alex Nedeljkovic met Emma Flageole-Bray when he was playing for her hometown team, the Niagara IceDogs. They decided to become more serious after knowing each other several months. Alex came to Charlotte to play for the Checkers and Emma started school in Ontario.

Status update – Alex, 22, and Emma, 20, have been dating for two years. During the hockey season, September through April, they see one another three times for four to six days. Past summers, they’ve seen each other every other week. This summer, they hope to both be in Charlotte.

Making it work – Alex uses the three “T’s” – Trust, Talking and Texting.

“It’s a lot of talking,” Alex said. “You’re not seeing them every day. It’s not always knowing what’s going on every day. You’ve got to really want to make it work.”

They talk by phone or Facetime every night, even for a few minutes. They know they’re thinking about one another every morning when they wake up and every night when they go to sleep. Family has been supportive of their relationship, and although Alex said it’s not needed, it does help.

Jeremy and Kelly

Jeremy and Kelly

Jeremy Smith is in his first year with the Checkers. He also plays goalie.

The meet – When Jeremy Smith was 19, he played in Niagara for the IceDogs. During an away game in Ottawa, Jeremy noticed several teenage girls giggling at him while he was drinking water. He decided to wink at one of the girls, Kelly O’Brien, and she winked back. Later, he got Kelly’s phone number through her friends. He and Kelly stayed in touch for two years and finally had their first date in Ottawa. They ate pizza and watched hockey on TV.

Status update – Jeremy, 28, and Kelly, 24, have been together six years. She is finishing her master’s degree in counseling and therapy in Ottawa. They try to see one another once a month and always plan a date night out that includes wine, but they love to binge on Netflix shows such as “Stranger Things.”

Making it work – Keeping a strong connection is key to the long-distance relationship, said Jeremy. He and Kelly do it by making playlists on Spotify and sharing photos on Instagram. If they can’t watch their favorite shows in person, they synchronize their iPads to a favorite such as, “Vampire Diaries”, a guilty pleasure. They stay on Facetime, so they can talk about what just happened on the show.

“People take the little things for granted when they are together,” Jeremy said. “Those don’t come at all in a long-distance relationship.”

Andrew and Haley

Haley and Andrew

Andrew Poturalski is in his second year as forward with the Charlotte Checkers.

The meet – Andrew Poturalski met Haley Fromen at a city-wide dance in Buffalo, New York, although they attended the same high school. He was a sophomore in high school and she was a senior.

Status update – Andrew, 24, and Haley, 25, have been dating for eight years. She is finishing law school in Buffalo and plans to move to Charlotte when she finishes. They see each other once a month and Haley spends the whole month of January with him. They also spend their summers together.

Making it work – Andrew acknowledged that conflicts are harder to resolve and can turn into something else when you’re in a long-distance relationship. It’s easier to just ignore the other person.

“You’re not right there, so you can’t just fix it,” Andrew said. “You actually have to put in the effort to address the situation and make sure both sides can get their points out and then you can fix it from there.”

Photos: Courtesy of Alex Nedeljkovic, Jeremy Smith and Andrew Poturalski


  1. These are proved that long distance relationship works if you have trust in your partner. If you talk to each other and understand each other then your relationship will no longer. I read all the stories but I love the Andrew and Haley because its statement is so true.


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