This post is different from my usual mental health blogs but it’s about something very important to me. (So please keep reading) – Hilary
Friday April 6, 2018… the Cambridge Ice Hounds had arrived in Rochester, New York. It’s a trip we have been talking about all season long. 28 of us…players, parents, guardians, family and coaches rode together on a Great Canadian bus. Our team driver proudly wears a team jacket, and he and his wife cheer and support our team at every game they attend.
Friday night, a group of us went out for dinner, to celebrate the beginning of an exciting weekend and another successful season coming to an end. I quickly checked Twitter before we left the hotel room and saw early reports of the devastating news coming out of Humboldt. A few hours later, I checked Twitter again and my heart continued to break over and over again, with every story I saw. It hit me hard but being a coach with a special needs hockey team, I knew the team would need me at my very best.
I made the decision to keep myself updated with what was going on in Humboldt but I wanted to wait, until Sunday night. when I was home to really grasp what had happened and give my full attention to the situation. You may wonder why I chose to do this and my answer is simple. This past weekend was about the 30 Ice Hounds players attending the friendship tournament. It was about the 6 games they got to play in and creating memories that will last a lifetime. I wanted to give the Ice Hounds the time and attention they deserved and do the exact same with the Humboldt Broncos.
You may be wondering why I care so much, why I’m completely heart-broken about what has happened. I didn’t personally know anyone involved. But my parents chose to be billets for a local major junior hockey team. We started when I was 3 years old my sister was a year and a half old. I am truly blessed and eternally grateful to have been a billet sister. We were a billet family for 20 years, had 28 players live with us and there were a couple of seasons where we took two players in. Some stayed for only a week, one lived with us for his entire junior hockey career…4 years. Each player was welcomed into our home and quickly became an important member of our family. The memories I have with each player will never be forgotten and they each played a vital role into inspiring who I am today. You’re damn right I’m proud to say that I have 28 brothers, even though people try to tell me otherwise. Being a billet sister was an emotional rollercoaster… of course as I grew up I started to really notice what it takes to be a professional hockey player. As a billet family, we were that players support system, cheering them on at the rink and helping them be positive individuals away from the rink. We helped them cope with every up and down that comes with moving away from home, starting in a brand-new city, going to a new school, balancing school and hockey, stress of performing and injuries. Whatever they would go through, we as a family, would also go through.
Today, I found myself sitting in our spare bedroom… aka the hockey player’s room. It has since been redone but the feeling is still the same. That’s the boys room. For a better part of the afternoon, I took the time to look through old pictures with the different hockey players that lived here. Looking at these pictures helped me more than I ever imagined. It reminded me of the bond I once had with each of the boys. Years have passed…circumstances have changed, we have all grown up and gone on different paths but I hope each one of them knows how much I love them, how much I value the memories we made and how I wish them all the best.
I’ll be honest, I’m struggling with the devastating loss of the 16 lives. I’ve cried a lot over the past couple days. The pain is so real to me… and to think that something like this could have impacted my family first hand, has completely shaken me. I couldn’t imagine saying goodbye to a player prior to a game, wishing them good luck and then not seeing them again…or seeing them severely injured. As a billet sister, a coach, a fan and a true lover of the game, my heart is broken into a hundred different pieces.
My sister and I put out two hockey sticks with green and yellow ribbon tied around them, on our front porch Monday night. The outside light was on. We included a clipboard, a whistle, headphones and a puck… just in case the boys need them.
My heart goes out to every player, family, billet family, member of the organization, friend and fan. My heart also goes out to those, like me, who are grieving the loss of 16 people who they never got to meet.
Here’s the link if you’d like to donate…