Wenatchee Wild Billets And The Amazing Work They Do
It's not easy being a 15 to 18 year-old hockey player, hundreds of miles away from home, school, and friends. They will face tremendous pressure only few can understand. Many of them will move on to play the game at a higher level. Others will achieve goals in areas they've yet to realize. All of them, however, will need guidance along the way.
Enter the billeting community: families that shelter players and form bonds over the course of an entire hockey season.
The Wenatchee Wild organization brings in about 60 players every year, each one needing a home away from home while they compete.
Timothy Butterfield and his wife, Fran, house Alexios Georgaklis (#19) from San Diego, CA. He says they give the 18-year-old plenty of space.
"He has like a studio apartment. Upstairs. We have a loft in our place. And it's got a TV room and that's got one bedroom and a full bath. So that's his area." Butterfield said.
Along with a "buy one, get one free" season ticket to Wild home games, Billet families receive a check for $350 per month, but the Butterfields and others say they don't do it for the money.
"We're helping a young man follow his dream of being professional hockey player someday. It's so much fun," Tim Butterfield said. "Yeah, we become part of their families. We have so many new families now. Our second kid we had, Tanner, he is graduating college in April. We're going to his graduation in Michigan. We also went to his high school graduation in Anchorage, Alaska."
To become a billet family, you must fill out a questionnaire regarding specifics of what you are looking for in this experience. The questionnaires, combined with the billet coordinator’s knowledge of each family and player, are used to pair players with families that they believe will be a good fit.
David Page and his wife, Diana, have been housing players for 8 years. They're currently pulling double duty with Jackson Ebbott (#20) from Sherman Oakes, CA and Noah Jones (#3) from Bridgewater, NJ staying at their home. He says they've built very special relationships with the players.
"That's one of the things that we've always asked the kids. We request having dinner with them. If they have other things to do that's fine, but you know, as a family, as a grown up, we always had dinner at the table with mom and dad and the kids." Page said.
And it's hard work. Page says he wouldn't be able to provide for these players without help from his wife, Diana.
"Diana spoils these kids. She does. Honestly she loves having these kids here," Page said. "Diana strips their beds and gets everything cleaned up and ready to go. So when they come back (from road games), they've got clean sheets."
Behind the billeting community is Troy Mick, Director of Hockey for the Wenatchee Wild Hockey Academy. He says there's no academy without the billet families.
"We have approximately 60 players every year that need homes, and you know what, we always go down to the wire but all the families in Wenatchee, East Wenatchee and surrounding areas really step up to the plate because, like I said, if they weren't and they couldn't, then we wouldn't have junior hockey in this unbelievable city of Wenatchee." Mick said.
And with a heartfelt thank you to everyone involved, Mick says he looks forward to future relationships with billet families for years to come.
"Anybody else that wants to be a billet family and acquire please give me a call at the Wenatchee Wild office. Anytime I'm available for you. We'll get the word out."
If you're interested in being a billet family, here's a link to the Wenatchee Wild website with information on how to get involved.
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