Tammie Johnson is a Customer Service Representative with the Revelstoke Service BC Centre. Following the tragic bus accident last week of the Humboldt Broncos hockey team, Tammie shares her moving story of her years spent billeting young hockey players.
I am a volunteer. It’s a big part of who I am: a mom, a wife, a daughter, a volunteer.
I’ve been a leader with Girl Guides of Canada for 22 years; I’ve been president of Parent Advisory Committees; and a member of countless boards and committees.
What I would like to share with you today; however, is my work with the Revelstoke Grizzlies Junior B Hockey Club. I’m on the executive of the Grizzlies Booster Club, in charge of game day ticketing and merchandise. I do everything I can to help the club run smoothly in our little hockey town in the mountains, where the winters are long and the biggest show in town occurs on the ice every weekend.
My most important role within the world of hockey however, is being a billet mom. Over the last five years, my husband Wayne and I have had 15 boys in our home; this year, I have three. And being a billet mom has never meant more to me than it does now, just days after the tragedy that unfolded on April 6th in Humboldt Saskatchewan.
A lot of people ask me, “What is a billet mom?” or “Why would you do that?” A billet mom is someone who opens their home to young men who are away from home, often for the first time, to play the game they love. We take them in as our own, we feed them (a lot!), we’re there to take them for stitches ,to give them hugs when they win and when they lose. For seven or eight months, we are the naggers, the cooks, the shoulders to cry on, the voice of reason and their biggest fans. We spend countless hours making sure their families don’t feel left out when they can’t be there for their game winning goals, we help them explain to their girlfriends back home just how busy they are. We are the transition from home to adulthood, teaching them how to do laundry, how to cook, how to be responsible young men. Every Mother’s Day, I receive messages all day long from the 15 boys my husband and I have shared our home with, boys from as far away as Michigan and Indiana, California and New Hampshire, our “sons from other mothers”.
People think we give a lot, but the truth is we get so much more in return. We receive a nominal fee to cover things such as food and Wi-Fi, but what really matters, are the lifetime connections we develop with these amazing young men. We build love, respect, friendship and bonds that last a lifetime. We get to point out ‘our boys’ when they’re on the ice, and beam as they score a goal or make a save. We get to soak up the energy and excitement of playoffs, we ring bells, hold up signs and wear our boys jersey numbers proudly. We clap and cheer until we can’t cheer any more.
But this week, we comfort them when they realize that the boy they played with last season has been killed in a terrible bus crash, when they realize that an entire team can be gone in a heartbeat, when they realize the spring camp they were headed to next week isn’t taking place because the coach died too. When they realize that the entire nation is in mourning for boys just like them. Boys with talent and drive, skill and heart, dreams and fears. We wear green for Humboldt, we put hockey sticks on the front porch in memory, and wear our jerseys to work. We mourn together, knowing that in four short months, we will load them up on a bus and send them off again to their next game. We’ll catch our breath, shed a tear, and wait for them to get to the rink safely, and home again. And we will remember the Broncos.