Lori Stocks is a busy hockey mom. With two young boys in the game, her life is centered around cold mornings in the rink and winter road trips all over the Kootenays. It’s a hectic schedule in pursuit of Canada’s game.
With another busy season only weeks away, why would this hockey mom bring on a Nelson Junior Leafs hockey billet?
“Seeing them interact with my own kids is the biggest reward,” said Stocks. “[My kids] look up to these guys and over the course of the season they develop a really strong connection. It becomes a positive experience for everybody involved.”
The Stocks family first signed up to be a Leafs billet four seasons ago. The team was looking for good homes and Stocks took the plunge.
Former Leafs captain Gavin Currie was the first extended house guest. Known as one of the classiest players to pull on a Nelson jersey in the last decade, the Abbotsford native was a perfect starting point.
“I was a little nervous, but the first one was really nice,” said Brady Stocks, who was four when Currie arrived. “So I wasn’t nervous anymore.”
“I thought it was really sweet, I was stoked,” said Austin Stocks, Brady’s older brother by four years.
They were hooked after that first season. Currie ended up staying with the Stocks family for a total of three seasons. Two seasons ago they also took on Marcus Dahl and Dustin Johnson. Last season the family had goalie Patrick Defoe and sniper Brett Norman.
“They are very kind, they help you with your hockey,” said Brady who is now seven and really enjoyed having Defoe come out to his novice practices to help him with his puck stopping techniques.
“It really does feel like they are part of your family,” said Austin. “They feel like they are your brother.”
Despite the rich rewards for families who take on players, this is the point of the season which causes the club’s billet coordinator the most stress. With the majority of the roster made up of players from elsewhere, there are about 15 young men to house each season.
As it has for the last two seasons, the task of billet coordinator for the team has fallen to Lori Stocks.
“It’s a challenge,” she said. “A lot of people don’t really understand what the responsiblities are, some people think it is a headache. I think some people assume you have to drive them places and they are going to eat you out of your home. You don’t have to drive them anywhere and though they are growing boys, the billeting costs easily cover that.”
Billet homes get a monthly cheque of $600 to feed and house the players. Stocks said it is easily enough to ensure the young athletes are fed nutritious meals.
Though billet homes are encouraged to make the players part of the family — whichever dynamic that may include and it certainly does not require the hosts to have kids — Stocks said the responsibility is pretty hands-off. Since most players are at least 16 and many have their own vehicle, there is not a lot driving. The players also lead very busy lives during the season with school, jobs, nightly practices and weekend games.
Players must also adhere to team rules and individual house rules. And if for some reason personalities don’t match, the players can always be moved.
Back to the rewards of the experience, Stocks said it is not only about forming bonds with the out of town athlete.
“It’s not just an experience with the player, you get to know the families too and we have a good relationship with Gavin’s family,” she said.
And like all things in life, Stocks said it’s never a bad idea to pay it forward.
“I have two boys in hockey and you never know where they are going to go in their hockey career,” said the busy hockey mom. “If one of them ever had to go elsewhere to play and be billeted, I would hope they would treat my kid the same way we have been treating the players who have come into our home.”
If you are interested in billet for the season contact Lori Stocks at 250-352-0573 or via email at Lori Stocks firstname.lastname@example.org.