From the Crag and Canyon:
With the Canmore Eagles training camp just weeks away, the Alberta Junior Hockey League team is looking for more families to take on the role of billets.
“I think there is a misconception that billets need to have a basement suite or that sort of thing, but it’s actually quite the opposite,” said Monique DesRosiers, the billet coordinator for the junior A hockey club.
“We’re looking for families. These boys are anywhere between 16 and 20 years old and they’re often away from home for the first time, so we’re really looking for a home away from home — people that are going to support them, and feed them.
“I think the other misconception is that it isn’t as much work as people deem it to be. Most of (the players) have their own vehicle, but if they don’t it’s up to their teammates to drive them to the rink and everywhere they go.”
The added bonus is that all of the player’s equipment is kept at the rink, away from billet homes which means there is no smelly gear lying around.
Four previous billet homes have been lost due to families moving out of the Bow Valley and DesRosiers estimated that they are currently looking for roughly seven homes for players.
Outside of having another hand to help around the house, the Canmore Eagles provide billet families with season tickets, a discount card for Save on Foods, as well as a monthly allowance of $350 for groceries.
The importance of billet families is something Eagles head coach and general manager Andrew Milne can’t stress enough.
“I think it’s something that’s so important for success in any organization,” said Milne. “The players need a home away from home, but we talk a lot about how there are going to be so many uncomfortable, stressful and difficult times for a player over the course of a season that the stability of a house is so important to them. When players are comfortable in their living situations, they tend to be more comfortable on the ice.”
For those interested, the benefits of having a young man step into your home reaches far and wide, and often further than some expect. The team’s president, Daryl Lockwood, has been a billet home for more than 20 players for the Eagles in years past and knows all too well the example the young players can set.
“It’s been great. I believe it’s a good thing for our community and helping these kids achieve their goals they want to reach in hockey and through education,” said Lockwood. “(My wife and I) have two girls, so for them they always had big brothers in the house growing up.
“It’s easier said than done, but give it a try because it’s not as tough as you think. Most billet families, once they get involved and talk to them after three months, three weeks or three years, they’re saying ‘this was a lot easier than I thought it would be.’”
DesRosiers says Milne also expects the most out of his players not only on the ice, but off the ice too.
“All kids have NHL dreams, but when you have the billets in your house you really see all that it takes,” said DesRosiers.
“They’re expected to go to school and be strong academically, they’re expected to perform on the ice and Andrew expects a lot of his boys to help out in the community being good community members. He picks good people first, and good hockey players second.
“He realizes that Canmore is a small town and he wants the reputation of these players to support Canmore.”
For more information, you can contact Monique DesRosiers at firstname.lastname@example.org or the Canmore Eagles at email@example.com.