By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – With the Timmins Rock set to open their main training camp on Monday and the team’s first home exhibition game just over a week away, preparations for the 2015-16 NOJHL season are in high gear.
While coach and general manager Paul Gagne is busy finalizing his list of players who will take to the ice at the McIntyre Arena Monday night, there is even more activity off the ice.
Brenda Torresan, billet co-ordinator for the Rock, is busy ensuring all of the players arriving for the start of the main training camp will have a place to stay.
“With it being summertime in the City of Timmins, it has been a bit on the slow side finding billets,” she said.
“But the billets we have been able to find are very excited and some of the boys, the ones who have signed already, have already moved in and they are really enjoying themselves.”
Torresan will not know for sure how many more billet homes will be required until the players begin to arrive for Monday’s camp this weekend.
“Right now, we need three more homes, but it will all depend on how many more out-of-town players arrive, who may end up getting signed,” she said.
Torresan noted the team is even looking for families to help out on a short-term basis if they are not comfortable committing to acting as full-time billets.
“We are interested even if they are just willing to do it on a part-time basis until full-time billets can be found,” she said.
The Rock currently have 11 players billeted out with local families, with defenceman Kealey Cummings’ family being the only return billets from last season.
“She (Kealey’s mom) is taking three players again this year,” Torresan said.
So, just what is required to become a billet family?
“First and foremost, we hope the billets will open their doors to these young players as family members, just like they were members of their own family, to support them in their games, in their schooling and their lives, etc.,” Torresan said.
“We like to put two players together in a home, but that’s not always how it works out. Usually players who are put individually into a home have their own vehicles for transportation. When we put two players together, at least one of them does.
“That takes the responsibility off of the billet family for the transportation part of it, for going to school or to the rink and back and fourth, because that can be quite hectic.
“A lot of the players will be going to Northern College, to the local high schools, to Collège Boréal or to Université de Hearst.”
Prospective billets do not have to have children around the same age as the Rock players, or any kids for that matter.
“We have some billet families who have younger kids, who are involved in minor hockey, which is really, really good, and we have some other families who have no children of their own but are involved in hockey in our community and really enjoy Junior ‘A’ hockey,” Torresan said.
“They will take on the role of the parent, even though they don’t have any children of their own at home anymore.
“And we actually have single people in the community who are also looking forward to supporting the players and giving them a hand while they are here.
“It is really wide open.”
All of the families taking part in the billet program are screened in advance.
“They have forms they have to fill out and they have to go through a police check to make sure that everything is OK,” Torresan said.
Other requirements include ensuring the players have individual bedrooms, although they can have two beds in a room where they can accommodate two players.
“The players, by that age, are quite responsible and they can do their own laundry, help to make their own meals and clean up around the house, just like if they were in their own homes,” Torresan said.
“And there are curfews. Coach Gagne is pretty strict on his curfews. He will be calling, not right away because not everybody is in their home but once they get settled it will happen.”
Providing a home-away-from home for these young players and assisting your local Junior ‘A’ hockey team are rewarding in their own rights, but there are also some perks that come with being a billet family.
“Of course, there is payment to the billet families for taking care of the players, which covers things like their food expenses and maybe some of the frills or extras that the families would like to give the players,” Torresan said.
“It’s a reasonable amount and the billet family also gets a season pass to the Rock games, including the three exhibition games.
Families interested in becoming billets should contact Torresan by telephone at 705-235-3204 and leave a message or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If the prospect of becoming a billet family is not your cup of tea, there are plenty of other ways the Rock could use your services this season.
Tracy Hautanen is working on the recruitment of game-day staff to work at the team’s home games — starting with the Saturday, Aug. 22 exhibition contest at the McIntyre Arena against the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners.
“We are looking for two cashiers to work the ticket booth, selling tickets and verifying people’s tickets when they come into the area,” she said.
“We are also looking for a couple of volunteers to hand out programs at that same location and we need security people. A few of them, at the start of the games, will be out making sure that parking is going well and then they will come in and join the rest of the security people, basically just going around the arena to make sure things are going well. We don’t anticipate any issues but it is always nice to have people around.
“We are also looking for a couple of kids to be what we call rink rats, picking up the pucks and move the nets. Those two kids would need to have helmets with them.
“And we are also looking for some volunteers to sell the 50-50 tickets.”
Other positions include announcers, goal judges and camera operators for the Fast Hockey live Internet broadcasts.
“We are asking people to send in a brief little resume and we will open all of those up on Friday and then we will contact people at that time,” Hautanen said.
“We will do a little interview to make sure they understand the position and we will get them some training so that they are ready to go for the first exhibition game.
“We are looking for people who are committed to coming out to the games, have good people skills and enjoy talking with the public.”
Applications should be emailed to email@example.com by noon on Friday.