St. Stephen Aces Jr. A Hockey Club

Billets provide home away from home, forge strong family ties

The ACES have played just one season but already players have formed life-long bonds with their billet families

Kate Scott
Saint Croix Courier – 06-02-2015
Reprinted with permissionFor Amanda Daigle, becoming a “billet mom” was so much more than just housing a hockey player for a few months.
Daigle and her 11-year-old son Hunter welcomed Aces goalie Anderson Snair into their home from the end of August until the second week of March, which was, she said, an experience so much more than anticipated.“Before he came, I anticipated a roommate. Someone that would play hockey, eat, sleep, and work, but that’s not what we got at all. We got a family member. We ate together, watched hockey games together; he went to Hunter’s hockey practices,” said Daigle. “It was above and beyond what I ever expected. They are forever billet brothers. Anderson always said I was his ‘billet mom’.”When Snair arrived, Daigle said there was no adjustment period, and admits she felt “stressed out not knowing” but said when he arrived it “felt like he had been there forever.”
Daigle said Snair was a positive influence for her son; however, there was a divide during NHL hockey nights. Daigle said with a chuckle that her son is a Boston Bruins fan and Snair is a Montreal Canadiens fan, which she said made things “interesting.”The only challenge Daigle faced was the meals and said with a laugh that she “is the world’s worst cook” but said Snair was a “trooper” and would never complain.“I would always know when a meal was good because Anderson would go back for seconds, and if Hunter would complain, he would tell him ‘don’t bite the hand that feeds you’.”Daigle describes the moment that Snair returned to Halifax as “emotional.”Snair is one of five 20 year-olds who graduated from the Aces team but Daigle said her family still communicates with the Aces goalie, visited him recently in his hometown of Halifax.

The family ex- changed gifts and said Snair’s gift to their family was his house key with a keychain in the shape of a house engraved with the words “Andy’s House.”

“I just could go on forever about Anderson, the experience was so positive. I feel that he was an extremely positive role model for Hunter especially, and going forward and we will continue to have a relationship with Anderson.”

Pege Peters, coordinator for the billet program, said all of the families have had a positive experience, and plan to billet next year.

“They all loved it, they all had great experiences, some players request to return to the same family and vice versa, it’s all been positive, all sort of become one big billet family.”

Peters said it is asked that the families provide a home atmosphere for the players with a private room and to provide nutritious meals and snacks.

The goal is to provide a home away from home creating a family atmosphere.

One of the perks of becoming a billet family is the fact that they receive a season pass to the games as well as a monthly stipend.

“The lifelong friendships that they form are just another benefit in itself,” said Peters.

For Sue Marvin, she and her husband Rob weren’t necessarily hockey fans before becoming a billet family, but said “we certainly are now.”

Marvin and her husband housed Stephen Sisco, who was traded in November, and then welcomed Nathan Ellsworth from Rocky Harbour and Matt McInnis from Rothesay.
Marvin said there was a bit of an adjustment period but said she found it easier with two players billeted.

“They’re there every day and become part of the family. That’s where we wanted to go; we wanted them to feel at home.”

The players have returned home but Marvin still refers to their old bedroom as “Nathan’s bedroom” and “Matty’s bedroom”.

“It definitely was an emotional experience,” Marvin said of their departure. “But what I had to hang on to is that they will be back. Even though maybe they won’t be back to the same team, they will be back; I chose to think of it that way.”

Gail McGrath echoes Marvin’s sentiment about being a hockey fan and said she was “periodically” interested, but because of the Aces program, has become a “bigger fan.”

At any given time during the season, McGrath
and her husband Wayne billeted two players. Seth Fillmore, Chris Chaddock, Caleb Stairs, and Alex Lewicki all were housed with McGrath.

McGrath said she felt “honoured” to welcome the players into her home described the experience as “life changing.” Although she admitted to feeling nervous before the players arrived, she said it “felt like something we were supposed to do.”

“We feel that’s it’s important for us to support these players in their careers.”

“There’s certainly always an adjustment period but we took the approach that it was their home and we encouraged them to bring friends. It was all a positive experience.”
McGrath said she “misses it very much” and still keeps in touch with the four players she billeted, and has already begun preparing their rooms and getting supplies.

“We were very sad,” McGrath said of the players leaving.

“That’s been very hard for all of us, including our two pets. Our dog and cat adored all of the players, especially Alex, and they have also had a hard time adjusting.”

“It’s forever life changing and a reward opening your home and letting them know that it’s their home away from home.”

“(We) felt very supported as a billet parents I think that they’ve done an incredible job.”

For more information on becoming an ACES Biller Family, please visit acesjrhockey.com or contact Pege Peters at pegejoe@gmail.com