Steamboat Springs Troy Mick doesn’t just still remember the first family he joined when he left home as a junior hockey player, a wide-eyed teenager with big dreams in the sport.
He still stays in touch.
Mick is now president and managing partner for the Steamboat Wranglers junior hockey team, which begins its inaugural season next month, but he started into junior hockey as a 14-year old in his hometown of Vernon, British Columbia.
Vernon was home to the Lakers, and the small city boasted 20,000 residents in the mid-1980s.
The following year, he moved up a class to a team from Portland, Oregon, a city with a population of 400,000, and there, he was assigned a billet family, a family that puts up junior hockey players.
His drew the family of Vandy Vanderzanden, with his wife Joy and their children, Jenny and Eric, and 30 years later, Mick still checks in, sometimes via Facebook, sometimes for dinner.
“I ended up going back to Portland to coach at one point, so I got to rekindle all of those relationships,” Mick said. “Now, their daughter, she’s a billet family in Portland, as well.”
It’s a special relationship, Mick said, and one he hopes to persuade a few more Steamboat Springs families to buy into.
The Wranglers will play their first home hockey game in Howelsen Ice Arena in Steamboat Springs on Sept. 30, then be right back a day later, Oct. 1.
For many of the players, the season starts well before that, however, and some members of the 25-man roster will begin arriving in town later this month. The Salmon Arm Silverbacks — the British Columbia-based parent club to Steamboat — will play host to a training camp starting Aug. 22. Steamboat will add several more players from that event to fill its roster.
Before that, organizers are hoping to ensure those players have a place to stay during the roughly six-month hockey season.
“Basically, what I’m looking for is someone who has a room for the player, someone who wants a role model in their household who can become a part of the family,” Mick said.
He helped lead recruitment efforts to find such families this weekend in Steamboat. They had a booth set up at the Saturday Farmer’s Market on Yampa Street, and Mick said five families showed interest in bringing home a lot more than fresh veggies from the market.
They also approached the Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo over the weekend but are still looking for more help.
In addition to the room, families are being asked to provide a dinner most evenings. Players, many likely to still be in high school, will be responsible for their own breakfast and lunch plans.
In exchange, Mick said, families will get a lifelong relationship similar to the one Mick found with the Vanderzandens, not to mention some help around the house.
“Our guy is a built-in snow shovel operator, too,” he said.
Those interested can contact Corey Allen, a managing partner, assistant coach and marketing director for the team, at 907-830-3184 or by email at email@example.com
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9