Billet. This small, two-syllable word is immensely important for junior hockey players and their families. As a verb, the term can be defined as providing lodging for someone in a particular place. But, the true meaning goes far beyond the simplicity of this description. Billets are families who invite junior players into their homes to be a part of their family during the hockey season. The billet family provides housing and support to young men who have moved away from home to pursue their dreams of playing the game they love. Billets are an integral part of the North American Hockey League (NAHL) and organizations like the Johnstown Tomahawks.
NAHL and other junior league players, who range in age from 16-20, look to their billet families to provide not only a roof over their heads, but also a comfortable and safe family atmosphere. The players take part in many aspects of normal family life with their billets, including family meals and taking on active “big brother” roles with their younger billet brothers and sisters.
Billet parents serve as authority figures, role models, and extended family to their assigned players, and players rely on their billet parents for help while transitioning to a new city and community. The efforts of billet families make a significant difference in the lives of the young men who have left home for the opportunity to play at a more elite level. In the past, members of the Johnstown Tomahawks organization have seen players show dramatic changes in confidence levels, grade point averages, social graces, work ethic, and more while living with billet families. The benefit derived from placing the players with billet families is truly immeasurable.
The unique bond families form with their players often last a lifetime: It is not uncommon for players to keep in close contact with their former billet families years after playing junior hockey.
A long-standing tradition in hockey culture, billets are a vital part of a team’s success, both on and off the ice.