As of this Friday, training camp will be underway for the St. Paul Jr. B Canadiens and the club is still looking for a few more families to billet players with for the 2020/2021 hockey season.
“In my experience being a hockey player and going to a billet, there were two or three occasions where I was basically a second son or part of their family,” said Rick Austin, president of the Jr. B Canadiens.
He said twenty years later, he still keeps in touch with his billet families “because you do become part of their family.”
Shawn Germain, head coach for the Canadiens, also looks back fondly on his days billeting when he played junior hockey.
“I know a lot of the kids we recruited, all of them really, were recruited on what kind of person they are so I can guarantee that they’re good kids and they’ll be accountable to the team,” said Germain.
The club pays billet families $600 a month, meant to cover the room and board of the players.
“Basically we need a home where there’s a bed they can sleep in, supper on the table for them. Somewhere close, it doesn’t have to be in St. Paul, but somewhere close so that they can travel to work, the games, and school if they’re going to school,” said Austin.
He noted that because the players are in their late teens, billet families don’t need to do everything for them, the biggest thing is being a connection between the players and the community.
Austin and Germain couldn’t give a lot of details on what the coming hockey season will look like as many of the details are still being worked out and changing.
What they could say was that training camp will be starting on Friday, and the team is prepared to respond to the challenges of sport in a COVID-19 world.
“I don’t think we’re going to surprise anyone this year,” said Germain. “We’re going to be in for some real tough games every single night and obviously dealing with the pandemic stuff is going to be new for everybody so that’ll be a challenge in itself.”
Germain said the team is looking younger than it has in previous years but he’s excited to get out on the ice this weekend and evaluate everyone coming in.