My hockey career over the years has provided me with many unique opportunities and experiences. A number of years ago I had the opportunity to move away from home for a year to pursue my passion. My move would be from Nobleton, Ontario, Canada to Wenatchee, Washington. From one side of Canada to the other side of the United States to play for the Wenatchee Wild hockey team in the North American Hockey League. When players from far away come to play for a hockey team they are set up with a “Billet Family”.These families welcome players, that they know nothing about, into their homes for the hockey season, providing food, housing and the chance to be a part of their family. Billet families play a vital role in the success of the player on the ice. If I wasn’t satisfied at home, it would affect my play on the ice. The Billet Family became my second family and the relationships that I built with them will be remembered for the rest of my life.
This was my first time living away from home, without the in person contact of my parents and my brother along with the comfort of my home that I had grown up in for the prior 20 years. While I was certainly nervous for this chapter of my life, there was a part of me that was excited to take a big step, and try something I had never done before. I was extremely lucky to be put with a billet family that almost felt like home. They took me in as one of their own family members and treated me like I was not just a random kid from a different country.
The family consisted of a mother, a father, 3 sons from the ages of 6 to 12 and 2 very energetic dogs. Even though I was at the hockey rink for 4 hours each day, I was required to pull my weight around the house just as they would expect their own sons to clean up after themselves while helping out with yard work and other daily chores. I understood that they were letting me live with them out of the kindness of their hearts and I wanted to help make their lives easier in anyway that I could. Whether that meant feeding the dogs while they were at work, picking up my billet brothers from school, or starting to make dinner for the family before they got home.
This experience was an incredible way for me to mature as a hockey player as well as a person while becoming more independent and less reliable on the constant comfort of my home in Canada.
The time I spent with my billet family was a year I will never forget. The relationships made with the entire family will be life long.
Next week I’ll talk about the life long friendships that I have made over the many years of playing hockey!