Being away from home can be difficult, but for five players of the Amherst Rambler Junior A hockey team they say it's a little easier when your billet family welcomes you as one of their own and neighbourhood kids are knocking at the door wanting your autograph and to join them in a game of street hockey.
For John Waye - Fredericton, Scott Bragg - St. John's, Trevor Layton - Wheaton Settlement, N.B., Simon Bissonette - Fredericton, and Ryan Matheson - Gander, Nfld., being billeted with Amherst residents Muriel Frenette and Paul Morrison and surrounding neigbours have certainly made the five hockey players feel welcome.
"I remember when they first moved in the kids from our neighbourhood came knocking on the door and asked if the Ramblers lived here. The boys (hockey players) often find the time to go play street hockey with the younger kids, which I find quite amazing that with their (Ramblers) ages (often late teens early 20s) that they will go play with the kids. Most wouldn't bother," Muriel said.
"With school (for some), hockey practice and work the team members have a busy schedule. These are good boys that are very active within the community to the point where, even with their busy schedule, manage to find time to interact with the neighbourhood kids," Muriel said.
"They look up to you as role models," Trevor said.
"If I were a kid I would like it if a hockey player took the time to play a little street hockey with me," Ryan said adding that the previous team he played for had him billeted in a home where there were three younger children.
As for being away from home, Simon said, "this is my second year being away from home during hockey season, it's a little easier the second year but you still have to get used to a new team and a new billet family. However, it's a good life experience," Simon said.
Muriel said this is the fifth year she and Paul have opened their home to members of the Ramblers team and have enjoyed doing so and plan to continue to welcome their extended family every year.
"We keep in touch with most and often times we visit them in their hometowns," Muriel said.
It was a bit of a surprise for Muriel to have five this year. Normally, she said they have one or two, but sometimes three stay with them.
"We were supposed to have three this year but, with there not being enough people to billet, we took two additional on a temporary basis, but once they got here (all five) we became attached and made the decision to keep all five," Muriel said.
According to Muriel, the number of billet homes available to hockey players has declined and finding placement for everyone can be difficult.
The five players and billet family are all in agreement that the most difficult issue is making yourself feel at home.
All five are also in agreement that this year for them was a little easier because there are five in the same house that were all in the same boat with not knowing anyone when they first came.
"I can't say enough what great boys they are, they help around the house and when they are asked to do something they do it. I believe the discipline they have from hockey really carries through into life," Muriel said.
"We always encourage them to help themselves because the last thing you want is to feel as though you have company for six months," Muriel added.
Muriel concluded that billeting the hockey players has been a great experience for herself and Paul and recommends to people who find themselves with empty homes as their kids go off to college or university that opening to your home can be rewarding, reiterating that the couple have made lifelong friends with previous billets and their families.