The players aren’t the only team members of the Victoria Royals. From coaching staff and trainers to marketers and ticketing agents, there are many people behind the scenes that make the organization run.
The billet families are an integral part of that team. They provide a home away from home for the players who come from as far as Denmark or Austria to develop as hockey players and people.
The Royals are currently looking for new billets, so we chatted with three current Victoria Royals host families to learn more about the experience.
What is the biggest surprise about becoming a billet family?
Each of the three billet families said the same thing! The biggest surprise is always how quickly they become attached to their player.
“They truly become a member of your family,” says Cynthia Hoffman. Cynthia and her husband Harry, are veteran billet hosts going into their ninth season with the Royals.
What advice would you give a new billet family?
Paul and Lynda Price are a newer host family, billeting for two seasons and currently have Graeme Bryks with them. It is no surprise that these young athletes eat a lot to fuel their training, so Lynda’s practical advice for first-time families is “to make sure you have lots of healthy foods available. Also, try and have your cupboards stocked with foods that they like.”
The Reich family, Nicki, Brian and Gavin, are heading into their fifth season as a host family and will be welcoming a new billet this season.
Nicki’s advice? “Let your billet take the lead. They are people first, then players. So some will need a little extra space and some will need a little extra attention. No two billets are alike.”
What is the greatest challenge?
“The most stressful time of year for us is the trade deadline,” says Cynthia. “We understand that every organization makes changes that are best for the overall team and also, for the players, but it is still hard.”
“I have found that supporting a player through injury can be a challenge,” says Nicki. “They want to play and contribute to their team’s success. So when your billet is sidelined with an injury, keeping his spirits up during recovery is crucial.”
What does the routine look like?
The team provides the structure for the players for practices and training but also works with an education advisor to support the younger players in completing their high school education.
Most days, all players will go to the rink for team meetings, workouts, on-ice practices, video review or a post-game recovery session like yoga. On game days, players head to the rink for pregame meetings and a short skate in the mornings and then go home to prepare themselves for their game. Some like a short nap, some visualize or meditate, but they all have a pregame meal before putting on their dress clothes and returning to the arena for the game.
Outside of hockey, the routine is like any other household with teenagers in the house – homework, breakfast and lunch prep, dinner at the table, chats and family time.
All billet families agree that saying goodbye to their players is the hardest. These young men become family and it is difficult to see them go. However, it is never truly goodbye. “Billets still send me messages to wish me a Happy Mother’s Day,” says Nicki.
The silver lining is that you get to welcome a new member of the family in September!
Thinking about becoming a billet family?
Here are a few things you should know about becoming a billet family:
- Billet families are required to supply all meals when players are in Victoria, but the team looks after meals while they are travelling (bus snacks are always appreciated!)
- Families are not required to store hockey equipment!
- The team arranges ride-sharing for players who don’t have a vehicle
- Families are required to have a Criminal Record Check (cost covered by the team), a home visit and will need to complete Respect in Sport for Activity Leaders
- Families receive a monthly stipend and a pair of season tickets (including playoffs!)
To apply to become a billet, click here: https://victoriaroyals.com/billets.