Becoming a billet family was a no-brainer for Lindsey Kyle and her husband.
“We both grew up playing hockey, I grew up in a hockey family. My husband played in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League,” Kyle said on the CJOB Sports Show.
“So for us, we’ve been involved for six years now. It’s his way of giving back. He knows what an experience it was for him to become part of a billet family, to be involved in the community.”
If you play junior hockey in Canada, there’s a good chance you’ll send up living in someone else’s home. Billet families that sign up to take in players receive money from the team to help cover expenses for food and utilities while the players are there, plus the families will get two season tickets.
It’s a cost-effective way for the players, who don’t have to pay to stay in a billet home, to follow their dream.
The Kyles started billeting for the Wheat Kings before moving to Dauphin, where they remain a billet family for the Kings of the MJHL. And they love it.
“We have two young boys, so our boys have both grown up with billet brothers, they know no different. We have one, sometimes two during the year. We count down the days until we get our billets back in the fall.”
This fall, it’s defenceman Riley Shamray from Oak River. The 20-year-old is spending his third season with the Kyles and has left a major impression on Bennett, 4, and Lawson, who is eight months old.
“Bennett can probably name you all the Dauphin Kings now. They’re over, they hang out at our house,” Kyle said. “His billet brother is definitely his hero. Bennett is starting hockey this fall, and he wants to be just like his billet brother.”
Shamray works at a sporting goods store in Dauphin, but when he’s not at work or at the rink, he’s spending quality time with his adopted family.
“Always, always games of mini sticks in the basement until Bennett goes to bed. If we have family functions, if we’re doing things and he has a day off, he’s heavily involved with our family. We have a really great relationship with his family, too.”
Kyle and her sister run the billet program for the Kings and right now, there are more families wanting to billet than there are players to take in.
“Ashley and I did a lot of recruiting this summer, and we actually have over 25 billet families now,” Kyle explained. “We recruited a lot of young families that have kids involved in minor hockey. People often come over to our houses and see what a great experience it is.”
Like a lot of smaller towns and cities across Canada, junior hockey is the glue that binds Dauphin.
So when the Humboldt Broncos bus tragedy happened in April, it sent tremors across the hockey world, and Kyle said it’s a day she won’t ever forget.
“That hit close to home more than I think anyone can believe. We called all our billet sons that we’ve had,” Kyle recalled. “We couldn’t believe what had happened, how shook up we were, how much we loved them.”
Kyle can’t imagine life without her billet sons.
” It pulled on your heartstrings because, for us, we knew what all those billet families were going through. We knew the conversations they were going to have to have with their kids. We could feel their pain when they had to pack up their billet son’s room. It made us hug our billet sons a little tighter. Hockey is such a small world.”
It’s a small world filled with wonderful people, like the Kyles, who are the unsung heroes of junior hockey in this country.
WATCH: Role and relationship of hockey billet parents