Jr. Blues Look for Billets

Jan 19, 2012


Jr. Blues Billeting

The Great Experience!


            The Springfield Jr. Blues always need people who are willing to open their homes and hearts to young men with a dream.  Could you envision yourself as a housing parent (also known as a “Billet”) for one, two, three, maybe more, super teenage boys?  I can tell you that it is one of the most rewarding experiences my wife and I have enjoyed in our lives. 

            The wife and I have six kids in our blended marriage and eleven grandkids in our family.  You might be able to understand how the “empty nest syndrome” hit us when the last child moved out.  Just as we were adjusting to just the two of us (with cats and dogs of course) our daughter called to ask if we would consider housing a player or two, that the team had five players coming in for the new season and no place to house them.  Well, my first reaction (and I must paraphrase in this article) was “Heck no, I don’t like hockey, I don’t understand hockey, and I certainly don’t want teenagers in our house that we have to be responsible for during a seven month hockey season!”  I had been to a Blackhawks game in the old Chicago Stadium one time in my life and it wasn’t a memorable experience.  Needless to say our daughter wore her Mom down, Mom wore me down, and we finally agreed to house two players.  After all, it would be a one- time experience, and they did need a place to stay. 

            One player was from Las Vegas, Nevada, and the other player came to us from Brentwood, a suburb of Nashville, Tennessee.  Now whoever heard of a hockey player coming from the south where there is almost never enough ice to skate on.  In they came, two of the nicest young men you would ever meet.  They literally became part of our family.  The southern young man’s parent’s came to a hockey game at the Nelson Center and instantly became extended family.  In fact we still stay in touch and visit each other sometime.  We have really extended our family with two more sets of grandparents, his Mom and Dad, along with cousins and friends.  Who would have believed it!

            We enjoyed evening meals with a lot of laughter and sharing stories about family and friends.  Our kids became friends with them and still stay in touch.  It was an amazing experience.  We still get cards and emails for birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, and many other occasions, and sometimes even phone calls.  What I mean is, the first two players we housed are still, after several years, a part of our family.  And it’s been that way in the years since that first one.  One of our “adopted” sons recently signed for a full ride to attend West Point Military Academy to play hockey, and another of “our guys” is attending the University of Alaska/Anchorage on a full ride, again, playing hockey. 

            These are pretty special young men.  They come to Springfield to play hockey for the Jr. Blues sure, but they are also focused on their future.  They come to play for a college scholarship, too, and it is their mission to work hard and catch the eye of a college scout. 

            Still, they are teenage boys.  Some find girlfriends locally and stay on after their hockey career to become valuable citizen assets to the local community.  They know how to have fun, but if they start getting too rowdy at our house, Mom just opens the door and “gives them the look”.  That still amazes me when I see how quickly “the look” quiets down the house. 

            We’ve housed two to as many as six players and have had no major problems with any of them.  The one time we had any problem, Mom went on strike and they didn’t get a home cooked meal for several days.  They caught on real fast and we had no more problems.  They help out with chores around the house, and last winter one of the guys took our snow blower (with permission of course!) around the neighborhood and cleared sidewalks and driveways.  Yes, they do possess a lot of initiative.

            The players bring (their parents actually) a monthly allotment of $300.00 to help defray the cost of food.  Now, the boys at our house eat well, and while the $300.00 helps it by no means cover the cost of feeding them for a whole month.  I don’t think Dagwood of the comic strip makes bigger sandwiches than some I’ve seen made in our kitchen.  They burn a lot of calories each day, and their appetites correspond.  Our fridge runs overtime sometimes trying to keep things cool.  All we can see are their backsides hanging out of it looking for “just a little something to snack on”.

            Are there any negatives, you may ask?  Of course there are, but the rewards far outweigh any down side.  Sometimes you have to be Mom and Dad to someone who is homesick, but won’t admit it.  Other times you have to pump up and encourage a player who is going through a rough stretch on the ice, and then you may have to be with an injured player in the Emergency Room when he is a long, long way from home and family.  The payment you get though is well worth it all.

            Have I piqued your interest?  Would you consider housing a player, or two, or maybe more?  If so check out the Springfield Jr. Blues web site at jrblues.com and click on the “be involved” button, then click on “billeting”.  There are far too many advantages to list than I’ve listed in this article, so we encourage you to “be involved” with the Jr. Blues and their fine young players.  You’ll be glad you did.

            If you would like more information please feel free to give us a call, email us, or see us at the “Nellie”.  We’ll be happy to share more with you about this wonderful experience!

Our email address is: Hickey84@comcast.net and ourphone number, just in case you want more information, is 217-585-1055.  Come on now, you don’t want to miss out on this outstanding contribution to our community, our team, or yourself, really!