Nova Scotia hockey billet families open up after Humboldt tragedy
'It would be like one of your own children,' says woman who offers room and board to junior players
Nova Scotia families that billet young hockey players are opening up about about how news of the Humboldt Broncos' deaths is touching their lives.
Fifteen people on a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos hockey team were killed at a rural Saskatchewan intersection April 6. The team had been on its way to a game.
"It would be like one of your own children because they become such a part of you," said Norma Aucoin, who with her husband, Al, has billeted Quebec major junior players for 20 years, providing a home away from home for many young men.
What billet families do
Billet families provide room and board to junior hockey players who leave home to join elite teams. Aucoin said families interested in billeting have to apply and and follow rules like curfews and providing hot, healthy meals.
She and her husband began taking in players after their two children, who also played hockey, grew up.
It's been a wonderful experience, she said.
"If you are having an event or when your family is together, it's wonderful to have them involved with the family," Aucoin said.
"You can almost feel for the billets because you know what it would be like for your player to leave and go on a road trip, like they do so many times, and to hear of this tragedy," Aucoin said. "I can only imagine the devastation one would feel getting that news."
'We're like hockey parents'
Paul Robinson, a billet for the Halifax Mooseheads since 2014, said he worries about the players when they have to go on long bus drives in poor weather.
"I think they're probably on the bus once a week. You can't help but worry," said Robinson.
Robinson said being a billet has been "a great experience."
"We're like hockey parents, so when they have bad games we feel for them and when they have great games we celebrate with them," Robinson said.
He said he was happy to see the outpouring of support coming to the Broncos.
"Hockey is a huge culture in Canada and I'm not surprised by the outpouring of support but it's nice to see everybody come together despite the tragedy that took place," Robinson said.
With files from Gary Mansfield and Amy Smith