For the third year now, the Van Alphens have welcomed Summerland Steam hockey players into their home. Two players from Whitehorse, who stayed with them last year, have returned once again to live with them this season.
“These young men are used to being billeted. They come in and ask for the rules of the family and they pretty well abide by them. We have not had a problem,” explained Linda Van Alphen. “This is their way of life and they live to play hockey.”
While her husband Marty loves hockey, Linda has not always been a fan. Having the hockey players live with them has changed that for her.
“Everybody laughs at me because I had never sat through a hockey game before two years ago and now I’m the crazy hockey mom,” she said. She went on to describe a time when one of the players that live with them had been hit in a game and was down on the ice. “I went crazy because I was so worried for him. I hated that feeling. It was just like if one of my kids had gotten hurt.”
For the Van Alphens the billets become part of their family. They are welcomed at family gatherings and know all of the Van Alphen children and grandchildren as well as other relatives. Not only that, but the Van Alphens have formed friendships with the players families as well. They have shared Thanksgiving dinners together and have been invited to Whitehorse to visit them in return.
Living on the Van Alphen’s farm offers the hockey players a different lifestyle than the one they are accustomed to back home. On the farm they can see what goes into raising chickens and sheep and actually living off of the land.
“They know where the frying pans are and they know where to get the eggs from, so they can actually go to the nest and get their eggs and make them. They love that and they’re really getting to be good egg cookers!” said Linda Van Alphen.
It has been agreed upon that Van Alphen will cook the boys one full meal per day, most often a protein or pasta dish. Sometimes because of the player’s game schedule she will find herself cooking pasta at ten o’clock in the morning, in order to ensure the players get enough carbohydrates before they play their game. She also keeps the fridge and cupboards stocked with bread, cereal, tea and chocolate milk.
Although taking in billets is not a money maker, Linda Van Alphen said it does cover the cost of food for the whole household.
There is no driving of the billets involved, as they have their own transportation.
One thing Linda Van Alphen requires of the young men is that they let her know if they are not returning home for the night or if they will be away for a few days, because she wants to know where they are at all times.
The Van Alphens both see the value in having a hockey team in Summerland. They see the contribution that it makes to the town economically.
“When they are finished a game they go to one of the pizza places and pizza for 22 kids comes to a significant amount,” said Linda Van Alphen. “During the playoffs their families come to Summerland and stay here and eat here as well.”
The couple also appreciates the fact that the team players become involved in the community while they are living here. Linda Van Alphen explained that they go into the schools to play hockey with the kids and help out at local events and do volunteer work.
“We see them as being incredible ambassadors for not only Summerland Steam, but for Summerland itself,” she said.
While Linda Van Alphen realizes taking a hockey billet into your home is not for everyone, she said it is one of the best things they have ever done.
“I think more than anything what motivated us to do this was that we have a strong feeling for Summerland. We love Summerland and we knew that we had this space and we’re used to having kids around. We’ve had so much fun with them.”