It was a beautiful weekday night last week that I met with long time billet parents, Norm and Cheryl Hodgson. I was excited to get back to writing the Billet Chronicles and tell the stories of the Wolverines billet parents. It’s an honour to sit at their tables and listen to their stories and experiences with the Wolverines players.
Norm and Cheryl are long time residents of Whitecourt. Norm is a Pharmacist and Cheryl is now retired from her job in accounting at a local medical clinic. Norm is also in his third term as a Whitecourt Town Councillor. The two started off by telling me about their own family which is made up of 4, Norm, Cheryl, their 21 year old son and 26 year old daughter.
The Hodgson family started billeting in 2013 when son, Blaine, a minor hockey player, was 15 years old. Blaine enjoyed having billet brothers, stating that “it was like having a teammate live with us”. Having hockey in common made it easy to incorporate the players into his life and home.
When the Hodgson family decided to take in a hockey player, it was a favour to billet coordinator, Kelly Shears. It was halfway through the Wolverines first season in Whitecourt and a new goaltender was joining the team. Norm and Cheryl had recently had an exchange student stay with them and when Kelly approached them, they agreed, already having somewhat of a billeting experience.
Both Norm and Cheryl describe their house as a relaxed atmosphere where they like to spend time as a family, one of the requirements of living in their home is having family dinners around the table at 6pm every night. Cheryl has fun teaching the players how to cook and having them help with meal prep. It helps with bonding and it also ensures that the players are able to cook for themselves when Norm or Cheryl aren’t home.
In the Hodgson home, playing cards is a fun bonding family activity that has been enjoyed by many billet sons. They also enjoy watching movies and taking in good ole hockey games together. This past season, the Hodgson's billet sons were Noah Tooke and Mitchell Lipon and as Cheryl will tell you, Noah can cook up a mean plate of leftovers in the microwave and Norm will tell you that Mitchell plays cards very well for the first two hands that he’s able to sit through.
Norm explained that the best thing about billeting is that every player is unique. They come into the Hodgson home with their own personality, morals and values having been raised in a home different from their own. Norm and Cheryl like that each player is their own person and enjoy getting to know each player on a personal level. They do admit though, with each player being unique it is also the biggest challenge, especially when bringing more than one player into their home.
The Hodgson’s usually have two billet sons at the same time and sometimes the challenge is integrating each player into their home and family while also having the players come into a new situation, new community with new teammates and a new home. Norm and Cheryl enjoy having two billets every year but they both expressed that it adds another layer into the mix in their home.
Regardless of the above, the Hodgson’s say that any challenges they face are erased by the satisfaction they receive from getting to know and be part of these young men’s lives. Not only do they become family to the players, they also enjoy friendships with their billet son’s parents. They are able to watch their billet sons grow as players on the ice and as young men off the ice.
The Hodgson’s say that having Wolverines players involved in the community is important for our youth and that many players have come to Whitecourt just to play hockey but have left as residents that are well respected, idolized and will be missed when they move on in their hockey careers.
As we head into a new hockey season, you’ll see the Hodgson’s at most home games, so take it from them when they say that Junior ‘A’ hockey is as entertaining as it gets. The calibre and skill of the players is exciting and fun to watch. They will tell anyone that asks, “you don’t need to be a hockey family to take in billets”. Even though the Hodgson’s have always enjoyed hockey, it doesn’t take someone with a hockey background to get satisfaction from billeting. The young men of the Wolverines have more to offer than their hockey skills.
If you are interested in becoming a billet to one of our players, we encourage you to speak with our billet coordinator, Kelly Shears. The Wolverines family is excited to meet new billet families for the upcoming season and of course, we’re always happy to welcome our returning billet families back.
Mitchell Lipon with Norm & Cheryl Noah Tooke with Cheryl
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