I ran into the father of a player my husband had coached. He was telling me about his son getting ready to move away for hockey. He had met his billets and felt good about the transition. Unfortunately, the upcoming season was up in the air because of COVID and he was unsure of what his hockey schedule would look like. Like many, they had made the decision to go ahead and get him set up in anticipation of an unknown hockey season. I asked him how his son was doing and he said, “He just wants to play!”. I couldn’t help but think of how simple it all used to be. The season would start and you knew what you were doing for the next six to eight months.
I started to think about how anxious I would get as I prepared for new players coming into our home. It’s almost laughable now because I wasn’t dealing with the craziness of a pandemic. One of the player’s we billeted was my son's teammate and they shared a room. I didn't worry that the germs in the room were potentially life threatening. I never had to worry about them getting really sick. I didn’t have to plan my trips to the grocery store around a line up outside because of social distancing. I didn’t have to remember to bring my mask or to stock up on certain items in case the shelves were empty. The simple things were so easy. Our biggest job was to feed him and make him part of the family. Our job was to also keep him safe but these days that has taken on a whole new meaning.
As a Mom, I always worried about my children’s mental health and it was no different with the young men that came into our home to billet. One of the advantages of hockey was that I knew if they started to miss home, they had a schedule to keep them busy, daily exercise to keep their heads clear and a team around them to keep them supported. It was nothing for us to have his friends over and that was ok because I knew it was all part of bringing a young player into our home.
During this crazy time, I can’t help but think of all of the young players and their billets. The stresses on a player are different now and they have nothing to do with hockey. They are anxious about being away from home, staying healthy and frustrated because they are dealing with a schedule that is changing daily. Everything they thought this experience would be has changed.
For the billets, they are bringing someone into their home from another city that could potentially be a “hot spot” for a deadly disease. They are welcoming parents and other family members in and out of their home at a time when having their own family come and visit seems impossible. They are responsible for a young player who is stressed and has an unpredictable schedule. They also have to hope that that their young player will follow the rules of social distancing in the same manner they do in their home.
Finally, I think of the parents. For so many years you’ve watched your child work so hard to achieve their hockey dreams. For many, you’ve known that someday you’d kiss them goodbye and leave them with another family in another city to play at a higher level. You probably knew it would be hard but the experience would outweigh any stress or worry that came with it. I’m sure that today, in light of these crazy circumstances, many of you are second guessing your decision to let them go.
My hope for all of you is that you stay safe, stay healthy and in spite of all of the challenges this pandemic has created…I hope you form relationships that last a lifetime. Mostly, I hope you get back in the rink to either watch the game you love so much or play the game you love so much. The pandemic has changed many things but it can never change our love of the game.
Stay safe everyone!
- Written by Allyson Tufts