Canmore hockey team needs residents to open homes for players

The head coach of the Canmore Eagles is asking area residents to open their homes to hockey players. Without billet homes, the team may not be able to fill their roster this year.

Team may not be able to fill roster this year without billet homes to house players, coach says

Canmore Eagles cheer after winning their final regular season game against the Okotoks Oilers at the Canmore Recreation Centre on Saturday, March 4, 2017. (Pam Doyle)

The Canmore Eagles Junior A hockey team is asking area residents to open their homes to hockey players for the season.

Without billet homes, the team may not be able to fill their roster this year, says Andrew Milne, head coach and general manager.

"We're faced with a lack of billets and it's not something that we can have a 'Plan B' for," Milne said.

"The players are coming from all over North America … to play for our hockey club and they don't have a house. If we don't have anywhere to house them, we don't have a hockey team."

Andrew Milne, head coach and general manger of the Canmore Eagles, says the Junior A hockey team needs several full-time billet homes to house players for the season. Without billets, Milne say the team may not be able to compete. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

Milne said the team routinely has to search out new billets every season, but the billet gap widened this year after a number of long-time billets moved from Canmore. 

Billets would need to house players from early September to the end of March and possibly longer depending on the team's playoff schedule. The players also spend a lot of time on the road, and have two weeks off to return home during the Christmas holidays.

The Eagles are in need of at least six more full-time billets for the 2017-2018 season if the team is going to be able to compete, the coach said.

"If they have nowhere to live, then they can't be here. And if we don't have enough bodies to house a team then we're just unable to do that."

'They need a warm bed and a warm meal'

Billeting a hockey player is far less demanding than it may appear and players "don't need the TLC that your own children need," Milne said.

He said families that take in a player receive compensation, including 10 per cent off at Save-On-Foods, $350 per month to purchase food for the player and season tickets for the 2017-2018 season.

"At the end of the day, they need a warm bed and a warm meal and a hug," Milne said.

Mayor of Canmore John Borrowman said it's possible that Canmore's housing shortage is making it harder than usual for the Canmore Eagles Junior A hockey team to find billets for the 2017-2018 season. (CBC)

John Borrowman, mayor of Canmore, said a housing shortage in the town could be making it more difficult for the team to find billets this year.

"Everything is connected," Borrowman said. "Housing is an issue in Canmore and it may be that families that would like to be able to host a billet, just simply aren't in a home that will allow them to do that." 

Milne echoed Borrowman's concerns, saying affordable housing in Canmore has put strain on the team's ability to persuade potential billets to open their homes to players.

"There's people that can rent out a basement suite for a lot more than we're willing to pay and can afford to pay," Milne said. "And so that challenge is there for sure, and we see that market in Canmore differently than most communities."

He said billeted players often act as role models in the community.

"These are motivated, driven, focused, mature, high performance athletes," Milne said. "These are mature kids. They know what they're doing, they know what the expectations are from the hockey club."

Canmore residents looking for more information on billeting a player can contact the Canmore Eagles billet coordinator.

With files from CBC's Terri Trembath