NORTH RICHLAND HILLS, TX — Behind every good hockey team is an equally good — if not better– support system. That comes from family, friends, and fans, but especially from the team’s billet families, who open their houses and their hearts to host a hockey player (or two, or three!) for a season.
CLICK HERE to find out how to billet a Brahma, and find out just how special a billeting experience can be.
“People don’t understand how important it is to be able to come home, decompress, and not really have to think about hockey that much and be comfortable in a different place besides the rink. That’s huge,” Brahmas forward Aidan Spellacy said.
Spellacy, in his first year of junior hockey last year, was initially nervous about being away from home to play hockey for the first time.
“I didn’t really know what to expect. I mean, it was the first time I was living away from home,” he said. Luckily for Spellacy, his billet situation was more or less ideal.
First-time billets Jordan and Sarah DeArmond and their two sons Justice (9) and Ryder (3) provided the perfect environment for Spellacy away from the ice.
“They were so understanding and they really made it feel like a home away from home. It was an unreal experience,” Spellacy said.
It’s no small thing, inviting a stranger into your home to live with you for months, even if that stranger is just a teenager. Maybe especially if that stranger is just a teenager. But as is often the case, there’s a certain risk attached to most things in life worth having.
For the DeArmond family, that theory definitely held true.
“It’s a big deal, opening your home and family to basically a stranger,” Sarah DeArmond said. “You have to be really sure of who you’re bringing in.”
As the mother of two young children, Sarah was hesitant about the concept of billeting. Her husband Jordan was the one who suggested they do so, but it took some hard thinking and a visit from the team before she decided that they should do it.
“[Former Assistant Coach] Al Rooney told us how he still talked to his very first billet family, and how it was a really special bond that still held even decades after he lived with them,” Sarah said. “And after that, I was convinced.”
The other factor that won the DeArmonds over was the fact that they knew the player they would be billeting wouldn’t be a typical teenager in most ways.
“We knew would be billeting kids who have goals and are driven. We knew that we would only be a stop on their journey. Knowing that they’re determined, and are committed to something beyond sleeping in my extra bedroom and committed to the team and process, that let us know we weren’t dealing with a typical teenager. That gave us a peace of mind,” Jordan DeArmond said.
That proved to be true, as there were stretches during season that the DeArmonds were struggling to find time to spend with Spellacy, as he was so often at the rink, working out and skating. “It got to the point where we barely had any time to hang out with him,” Sarah said, laughing. “Those boys are always working.”
As the Brahmas played through their season, the DeArmonds found themselves part of a larger family. “ I knew nothing about hockey,” Sarah said. “Once you’re in, you’re part of this big family. We were all in. Being part of something bigger than yourself is really amazing. It was cool to learn about hockey, and I knew that I was going to be an all-in sort of person. To invest my heart and my family into this was a big deal.”
Besides getting to be an integral part of Brahmaland in a unique way, billeting a player has been a great experience for the DeArmonds’ two young sons.
“The boys love him,” Jordan said. “They’ve been asking all summer when he’ll be back.”
“We wanted Justice especially to have a role model who wasn’t a parent,” Sarah said. “Ryder has Justice, but we thought it was important for Justice to have someone older to look up to. All the boys were great with their fans, and Aidan is such a hard worker and he was a great role model for them to have.”
For his part, Spellacy was honored to be able to be an older brother for once. “I’m the youngest at home,” he said, “So this has been a change. The boys are fun to play with, they kind of take your mind off hockey and they’re so supportive too. Like, getting a shot to be someone for a kid to look up to, that makes you feel like you’re something. You get to be their role model and that’s really, really cool.”
Spellacy will stay with the DeArmonds again this season, and there’s no doubt that both parties will maintain this bond for long after Spellacy has moved on.
“If you’re thinking about billeting a player,” Jordan said, “I’d really recommend it. It’s an opportunity to say you were a part of a player’s journey on their way to college and beyond. At one point, he sat at your living room and ate at your dinner table every night and that’s a cool thing to be able to say.”
“Being a part of this year has brought more emotions than I could ever explain,” Sarah said. “I can’t say enough good things about the whole experience.”