Even as exhibition games are just around the corner, the Powell River Kings are still looking for billet families to house a few more of its players.
According to billet coordinator Aaron Reid, all the team’s players (around 25 on the roster) are from outside of Powell River. She adds only two of them are living with family in the city, and billets provide a crucial service to benefit the team and its players.
“It has been a longstanding tradition for the BCHL teams to have billet families house their players,” said Reid. “A lot of that is because we are dealing with teenagers. A lot of the boys are between the ages of 16 and 20-years-old and for some of them it’s their first time away from home.”
Reid says this also helps keep the costs down as housing players away from home is quite expensive. To billet, she adds the players need a spare bedroom with a closet, access to a washroom, nutritional food in the house among other things.
However, she says over the years, particularly through the pandemic, there have been fewer families wanting to billet and that has put more stress on their resources.
“I think part of it is cost of living has gone sky high and we’re a volunteer non-profit society, so our budget is slim,” said Reid.
A $500 per month grocery card is offered to families who will be billeting, along with season tickets and merchandise store discounts, but Reid says it is difficult to compete in the community for housing.
“It’s hard to compete with the school district and their international program. They pay quite a bit more than we do, and families will tend to gravitate that way,” said Reid.
However, she adds that there are other opportunities for families to pitch in, including short term billet opportunities in the case of a trade or a family is going on holidays, and they would like a different place for the player to stay.
Many of the players are coming to the team to try and get scholarships. Reid says that over the last three years, billeting has really helped players reach their goals and ease the minds of parents as their child has a place to go.
“The players that are coming to us are one that are really wanting to pursue their career in hockey, generally through the university and college stream,” said Reid.
“Some of them need more guidance than others. If you’ve got a 16-year-old player, generally they’re going to require more guidance from the billet family than say a 20-year-old player.”
She adds that watching the growth that takes place as the players develop is a very rewarding experience.
Anyone who would like to get involved can do so through the Powell River Kings website. Reid adds she hopes the community can step up and help keep junior hockey alive and well in Powell River.