Billet. When used as a verb, it can be defined as providing lodging for someone in a particular place.
But the true meaning goes far beyond a simple definition. 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.
The NAHL and the Tomahawks organization look to billet families to not only provide a roof over their heads, but also a comfortable, safe atmosphere. The players take part in countless aspects of normal family life, including family meals and taking an active role as “big brother” to younger billet brothers and sisters.
Heather Rummell, along with her husband Albert, were one of those families that opened their doors and hearts to a young man in pursuit of his hockey dreams.
The Rummell’s, of Windber, billeted Tomahawks forward Andrew Andary, of Macomb, Mich.
“We decided to start billeting a Tomahawks player, because we thought it would be a valuable experience for our hockey obsessed son,” Heather said. “I contacted the Tomahawk office and was contacted quickly back of the need there are for billets. A fellow billet parent called me and explained the life of a billeting parent and we decided to give it a try.”
Heather’s son, Caleb, plays for the Johnstown Warriors and wants to start pursuing his own hockey dream so billeting a Tomahawks player made sense for the family.
From day one with Andrew, it was a perfect fit.
“We gained a new family member,” Heather said. “Our billet son, Andrew, became exactly that, a son to us. He was so respectful from day one of us and our home. You are opening your home to a stranger, but it does not take long for that strangeness to go away. Andrew fit right in with our family and there was never an awkward moment.”
For both the player and family, the whole billeting process can be one of the most rewarding experiences.
It’s not just attending the hockey games to watch your billet son, it’s about the bonds formed and memories created.
“The whole experience was so rewarding for our family,” Heather said. “We got to really know not only Andrew, but several of the players and understand the sacrifice they and their families make for the love of a sport and trying to get somewhere playing that sport. The players always made my son feel like a part of the team. They would play with him and include him in activities when he was around. Andrew, from day one, treated Caleb like a brother and he is never going to forget that.”
The Rummell’s not only had an impact on Andrew’s Tomahawks experience but also Andrew’s parents P.J. and Debbie Andary.
“We have become very close with Andrew’s family,” Heather said. “We have been to their home in Michigan twice over the hockey season and we plan to have more trips and memories to be made with him. They have become family to us and have treated us with love and kindness from the first time we met. Since the hockey season has ended, we talk frequently and send pictures almost daily.”
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 Tomahawks organization is seeking families just like the Rummell’s to open their homes to Tomahawks players for the 2018-19 season.
“Billeting is so much more than just housing a player,” Heather commented. “You are their home away from home, their family away from their family. You are their support system. When you open your door to greet them, you are also opening your heart, because they quickly find their way there. Billeting has been an unforgettable experience for us that we look forward to in years to come.”
If your family is interested in housing a Tomahawks player for the 2018-19 season, please contact the team at 815-536-GOAL or visit JohnstownTomahawks.com/billeting to fill out an application and review the rules and regulations.
Interested families may also contact our billet coordinator, Denny McLaughlin, at 814-241-6068 or via email at email@example.com.