Generally speaking, when you think about the Hounds and their existence, you think of the Lukenda Family, Dr. Shunock, Dr. Nanne etc . To be perfectly Frank (Sarlo), without them, the team could in theory be sold and cease to exist. That is the last thing the Soo would need ! Besides the owners who generally have a vested financial interest in the team, there is another entity that…. without them, we would certainly be Greyhound-Less. Without their generosity, financially the team would not be able to function or exist. I am speaking about the Billet Families……..the PoWeR behind the HoUnD !
Of course, you know about the billet families ; of course you know they feed the players , house them, ensure they are at home for the team imposed curfew etc ; but they bring a lot more. They bring stability to young man who is away from his family for up to 3/4 of the year. They are the ones who ensure the young men are being given the proper tools to advance in society outside of hockey, and they are the ones who are there to offer any kind of guidance and advice when things are not going good.
They may notice when a young man seems down, (maybe girlfriend issues) and thoughtfully asks him to shovel the driveway….just to take his mind off of things ; how thoughtful 😝. An observing billet may also notice when a player is struggling on the ice and thus might offer a few words of optimism. Tina or Gary may say ” Boris, it’s ok that you only have 8 goals in 7 games so far this season….things will pick up” 😝. In all seriousness, I think you get what I mean.
In addition to being full time hockey players, some of these kids are in school and have everything from relationship problems to getting assignments done on time as added stressors . The billet is there to help out and give any advice that they think would be fitting. After, all they are acting as surrogate parents.
Earlier in the article, I mentioned that without the billets, we would lose the team ; I stand by it (unless all the kids were local). The angle I am working at right now is finances. Without billets, the Hound organization couldn’t afford to spend the extra $$$ per year just on basic overhead for the players. I did some rough calculations on three meals a day, hotel lodging with two players to a room, and I multiplied this by just 240 days and 20 kids. The “hockey arena” figure I came up with was $400 000 ; I mean this really puts things in perspective right ? ….without these families opening up their homes to these young strangers , junior hockey here in SSM would be nothing more than a memory.
I spoke with a couple of billets and for the sake of argument and common sense we’ll use their real names 😜 ; Both Tina (re: B. Katchouk) and Brent (re: B.Jacklin) told me that they love watching the kids grow up and strive towards a goal in life. Aside from excelling in hockey, they informed me that the players also act as good role models for young kids and it is very enjoyable to watch. As Tina points out, an added perk is that they are really handy for helping with things like carrying groceries and shoveling. 😊
Another host (Frank) told me with a chuckle that he has two eating machines living with his family and that “the “living” allowance doesn’t even come close to paying for the food… we (obviously) don’t do it for the money ; the best part is watching young boys of 16 grow into mature young men”.
I had always wondered how one becomes a billet and if there was any kind of financial assistance involved so I asked a friend of mine who is currently hosting a young man in her home.
She told me that the first step would be to visit the Soo Greyhounds website and inquire as per instructions. I was also told that the organization does an extremely thorough job in selecting the billet family. They attend the home to make sure it’s functional, and they interview the families to make sure they fit the philosophies and standards that the organization wants represented. This is very important in my opinion because if a poor (choice) billet family were to be chosen, it could have everlasting effects on the young man outside of hockey. I would argue it would equate to the same situation as having a foster child, in the respect that the players safety, health and overall well being are primary and paramount.
Secondly there is a financial stipend that goes to the family each week but it is modest (only because these kids eat like horses) and even though I don’t billet, I can certainly say that it would be obvious that they eat their way through this allowance by midweek. LOL.
Having said that, the organization gives billets FREE seasons tickets for two adults ( $1200) FREE milk from Lock City Dairies and many other perks and discounts from local businesses.
So as you can see, the role of the billet is much more important than hockey players crashing for the night. Nutrition needs have to be adhered to, sleep and curfew are monitored, making sure the kids are up for school and get to and from practice ; all of these things fall on the shoulders of the billet.
So if you have ever wondered what it would be like to be a surrogate parent for one of these young men on their way to stardom, I hope that I have helped out in answering some of your questions.
If you think you wouldn’t mind helping out our Greyhounds next year, don’t hesitate to contact Gerry Liscumb Jr. firstname.lastname@example.org
** After a solid two weeks on the road, the Hounds return to action tonight against Nick Porco and the Saginaw Spirit. Keep it going boys ! **
Chipping the Puck in for this week,
Ernest Skinner Jr.