Billet families play a major role for the Chippewa Steel

Published: Sep. 20, 2020 at 6:52 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - The Chippewa Steel hockey team has high hopes to continue last year’s success, after the coronavirus ended their season. But the league couldn’t host a team in Chippewa Falls without their billet families who open their homes for hockey players to stay during the season. With the steel being so new, they’re still in need of these essential families.

The NAHL considers itself the league of opportunity. Young hockey players aged 16-20 who dream of playing professionally or in the NCAA know it takes big sacrifices to make those dreams come true.

“They don’t know how long they’re going to be here. This is just like the professionals where there’s cuts and there’s trades,” said Melisa and Eric Strong who have opened their home to many different Steel athletes.

The Chippewa Steel is a tier two junior hockey league, but they are on the newer side only being around for three years. The program wouldn’t be possible without some very generous families behind the scenes.

Chris and Tami Yeager, another billet family told WEAU,

“They needed a lot of housing when they moved into the area and they were looking for extra beds and places for them to stay and I brought it to my husband’s attention because we had an extra room so I said, let get a hockey player!”

“Both of our boys play hockey so we thought it would be a good way to get other kids into the home as role models,” said the Haats family.

Athletes often have to move states away, some even come from other countries. And billet families in Chippewa Falls have opened their homes, to help these young men work toward their dreams.

“If we weren’t here then they wouldn’t be able to do it,” Eric Strong said.

Playing for the steel develops hockey player’s performance on the ice. These billet families have an equally important role in helping them develop as young adults.

“I usually ask them, do you cook, do you know how to do laundry? Because each household is different where they come from,” said Melisa Strong.

Last year’s team captain and forward Isaac Moberg is thankful for his billet experience and said in part,

“It taught me a lot about life lessons such as learning to live with other people that aren’t your family making your own food, doing laundry, and for the most part being your own man.”

While they aren’t related by blood, billet volunteers in Chippewa Falls say the hockey players become family.

Eventually, the guys move on, sometimes after staying with a billet family for up to a year.

“Tts bitter sweet, but we keep in contact they come and visit us, so they never really leave,” said Heidi and Scott Christopher.

The Chippewa Steel is still looking for billet families in the area, if you’re interested in getting involved, more information is on their website.

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