Hard to imagine billeting a junior hockey player as a growing experience but that’s exactly how Denise Flick described her family’s five-year association as a Trail Smoke Eater billet family.
Flick is this year’s billet coordinator for the Smokies and with her family heading into its fifth year billeting players, it’s an experience she recommends to anyone up for the task.
“The relationships you form are amazing,” she said. “The very quickly become siblings in the family.”
Flick is spearheading this year’s call out to local families interested in taking in a player or two for the upcoming season. Billet families are crucial in the development of the players providing them with a home, food and family atmosphere.
The team provides a monthly allowance to the families and season tickets for each member of the family so they can cheer on their billet player and the team.
Flick acknowledged that there may be some concerns over taking a teenage boy into their home but added the team strives to provide support and funding to the volunteer families.
Her own experience alone is a selling point for the program.
The Flicks decided to take in a player a few years ago at the request from a friend. A second player arrived midway through the season and the Flicks haven’t looked back.
“Over the years we’ve met so many great players. And they’ve demonstrated so many acts of kindness towards my own kids.”
Flick, the mother of a teen daughter and son, says Mother’s Day and birthdays are always great because she “hears from most of them.”
Having a Smokie billet in your home is not much different than from your own kids, says Flick.
“The boys can make their breakfast and lunch. And you have to have lots of good healthy food around the house.”
The players help out around the house and, as Flick describes, there are disagreements as well as harmony just like any family.
She said one big bonus from having the players in her home was how it brought everyone together at supper time.
“It makes us stop at dinner time as a family. We have a good meal and just talk about our day. We can sit around the table for an hour talking.
“And we play games too. Before with just the four of us we didn’t play that many games but when the boys are here they get out the games.
“The boys want a family life but they’re also young men that need their independence too. They’re part of the family.”
Flick said the billet families also become a part of the Smoke Eater organization. New head coach Cam Keith has taken an active role in getting to know the billet families. She said there’s nothing like going to a game and cheering on your billet player.
Meanwhile, the families work together whether it’s inviting other players over for meals or helping out when one family is out of town or something unexpected arises.
While few players aspire to a career in the NHL, the majority of players have academic goals. And that’s where the billet families also play a role.
“I want to give back,” said Flick. “And this is about helping the players be the best they can.”
For more information on becoming a billet family with the Trail Smoke Eaters contact Flick at 250-231-0466 or the Trail Smoke Eaters office.